Published June 28, 2012
Faster than a speeding bullet: This is space-diving.
Daredevil adventurer Felix Baumgartner's plans to plunge 23 miles from the edge of space back to Earth -- a Red Bull-sponsored stunt that would be the world's highest freefall -- and after successfully completing a battery of tests, his team is nearly ready for the big jump in Roswell, New Mexico.
“The development phase has been successfully completed,” was the confident announcement that Baumgartner posted on his Facebook page. “After 3 weeks of capsule tests, emergency procedures and high altitude test jumps in Taft, we’re done!”
The attempt to break the record of 102,800 feet for the highest altitude freefall set in 1960 will take place shortly after the completion of the final manned test jump.
“One mile every 5 seconds – this is how fast you travel at supersonic speed,” Baumgartner said, somewhat astonished himself at that particular measurement of how quickly he will be falling from the heavens.
“It’s hard to believe it if you put it that way, but I love it,” added the 43-year-old adventurer, who is looking forward to the historic jump from the edge of space, which will also collect important data for the advancement of medical science. “Will I break the sound barrier this summer? We think it’s possible, and I’m putting everything into making it happen.”
The launch window for the 120,000 jump starts in July in New Mexico, Baumgartner told FoxNews.com earlier this year.
With air temperatures of -70 F degrees, his very blood would boil if exposed to the air. So what could compel a man to make such a dangerous attempt?
"I like the challenge," Baumgartner said. "I have a passion for aviation, and I love working on things that start from scratch," he explained.
Dr. Andy Walshe, the mission’s high performance director, has helped Baumgartner overcome the trying psychological challenges of being inside a space suit for hours on end, noting, “Felix is intense, he’s in control, he’s resilient – these are the characteristics that really match the project.”
To do it at all required a custom supersonic spacesuit, designed by the David Clark Company, which made the first such pressurized suits to protect World War II fighters during high-speed maneuvers.
In the process of his leap, Baumgartner hopes to become the first parachutist to break the sound barrier, plummeting toward the ground at 760 miles per hour. Other world records up for grabs: the highest manned balloon flight (120,000 feet); the highest skydive; and the longest freefall (about 5 minutes, 30 seconds).
Joe Kittinger, retired U.S. Air Force colonel who holds several of the long-standing records that Baumgartner is determined to break, is delighted to be a mentor for his Austrian protégé.
“He’ll be making a significant contribution to future astronauts and future space travelers,” Kittinger said.
“He’s using a pressure suit that will be the next generation of pressure suits. He’ll be gathering valuable data for future space travel.”