Skydiving is dangerous. Skydiving from a plane in outer space is worse. But it's the lawsuits that'll really kill your dreams.
For years, an Austrian daredevil named Felix Baumgartner has been planning to take a 23-mile plunge from the edge of space -- and in the process, become the first parachutist to break the sound barrier, plummeting toward the ground at 760 miles per hour. The engineers and scientists behind The Red Bull Stratos project, an effort to break the record for the highest freefall ever, billed the jump as more than a stunt. The leap from 120,000 feet was to yield volumes of data that would have been used to develop advanced life support systems for future pilots, astronauts, and even space tourists.
But a promoter feels that the jump was his idea, and filed a lawsuit in April to prevent the event from taking place. Daniel Hogan claims that Red Bull stole confidential plans he had developed for the stunt, which he pitched as “SpaceDive” to Red Bull in 2004. Due to the ongoing lawsuit, Red Bull has been forced to suspend the mission -- and put on hold Baumgartner's jump.
"Despite the fact that many other people over the past 50 years have tried to break Colonel (Ret.) Joe Kittinger's record, and that other individuals have sought to work with Red Bull in an attempt to break his record, Mr. Hogan claims to own certain rights to the project and filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit earlier this year in a Californian court," Red Bull wrote in a statement about the change.
"Red Bull has acted appropriately in its prior dealings with Mr. Hogan, and will demonstrate this as the case progresses. Due to the lawsuit, we have decided to stop the project until this case has been resolved."
In his complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court, Hogan claims the daredevil stunt would be worth $375 million to $625 million in advertising to any corporate sponsor.
What would it have felt like for Baumgartner to open the hatch of the custom space gondola suspended below the weather balloon that would have taken him to space? What would it have felt like to step out into 23 miles of nothingness?
"For about the first 30 seconds he's not going to feel anything," Mike Todd, a life-support engineer at Sage Cheshire Aerospace and a member of the Red Bull Stratos team, told FoxNews.com earlier this year. This is particularly dangerous because, even though the air is so thin that it won't feel like he's even falling, Baumgartner needed to get into exactly the right position -- the so-called delta position -- to attain the speed he wanted and simultaneously survive the five-and-a-half-minute descent.
Todd said Baumgartner would reach Mach1 somewhere between 100,000 and 90,000 feet. But it wouldn't have been overly uncomfortable, due to the thin air. At that altitude, Todd said, "It will feel like putting your hand out the window of a car going 35 mph."
Unfortunately, we may never know. Red Bull claimed it had merely suspended the project, rather than outright canceling it, but only time and the judges will tell. Daniel Hogan was unavailable for comment.
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