On the left, Felix Baumgartner salutes as he starts his walk towards his space capsule in Roswell, New Mexico, on March 15. On the right is the moment before he jumped from 13 miles above Earth. That photo alone blows my mind.
The 42-year-old Baumgartner — in a fully pressurised jump suit — got into his specially-designed capsule to reach the 13.6 miles mark in the first successful test towards his world record-breaking space jump. The capsule, attached to a 30m-wide helium balloon, only took him to 21,818m, dropping in free fall for three minutes and 43 seconds, while reaching a speed of 364.4 miles per hour.
To give you an idea of how amazing this is already, a Boeing 747 normally flies at about 8.6 miles high (14,000 metres).
And yet, this is nothing compared to what is coming. Baumgartner wants to jump from an altitude of 23 miles (37 kilometres). When he does that, he will fall for an estimated 5 minutes and 30 seconds, breaking the speed of sound in the process. After flying at Mach 1 for awhile, he will let his parachute out at one mile (about 1,500 metres). If everything goes ok, he should reach the ground 10 minutes later.
When he does that this summer, after another test jump at 90,000 feet, he will break the record set by United States Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger on August 16, 1960. Kittinger jumped from the Excelsior III balloon, which at the time was flying at 31,300m -- that's 19.47 miles up in the sky. Kittinger didn't have all the fancy equipment that Baumgartner is using, but it doesn't matter; both of them are as gloriously crazy as the first astronauts. Well done, Fearless Felix, and godspeed for your next jump! [Red Bull Stratos]