Skydiver Makes Test Jump From 13 Miles Up
Skydiving superstar Felix Baumgartner rode a pressurized capsule to the dizzying altitude of 71,580 feet this morning, paused to admire the curvature of the Earth and then … jumped.
That’s when things got really wild.
“Fearless Felix” reached 364.4 mph — more than 534 feet per second — during a freefall that reportedly lasted 3 minutes and 43 seconds. Then he pulled the cord on his parachute and landed safely 30 miles from Roswell, New Mexico at 9:50 a.m. All told, he spent 8 minutes and 8 seconds falling to earth, according to the folks at Red Bull Stratos, the name of the project.
“I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while, but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of 50,000 feet,” Baumgartner said.
Baumgartner is only the third person in history to have jumped from such a height. As amazing as it was, the leap from 13.5 miles was but a test run for his truly insane plan for a record-setting stratospheric skydive later this summer from 23 miles up.
Reaching that altitude is almost as impressive as falling from it.
Baumgartner's capsule dangled beneath this 165-foot-tall balloon as it rose to 13.5 miles. Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
To get so high, Baumgartner, an experienced skydiver and BASE jumper with more than 2,500 jumps under his belt, rode in a pressurized capsule dangling from a 165-foot-high helium balloon. The point of today’s jump was to test the capsule, his pressurized suit and other systems.
The ascent, jump and landing took 1 hour and 40 minutes. It all went off without a hitch, though Baumgartner said it was just a bit cold at that attitude — more than 75 degrees below zero.
“I could hardly move my hands,” he said. “We’re going to have to do some work on that aspect.”
Baumgartner, 42, expects to break the sound barrier and freefall for at least 5.5 minutes when he jumps from 120,000 feet. Should he succeed, Baumgartner will eclipse the record Joe Kittinger, a retired Air Force colonel from Florida, has held since jumping from 102,800 feet (19.5 miles) in 1960.
Kittinger, 83, has been a mentor to Baumgartner and is among his chief advisers, along with a former NASA flight director and an engineer who worked on the B-2 bomber.
“Felix, you’re going to have one heck of a view when you step out of that door,” Kittinger told Baumgartner before the flight. “Enjoy the experience.”
Only Kittinger and Russia’s Eugene Andreev have jumped from heights greater than 13.5 miles, and both men made their dives in the 1960s. Red Bull Stratos hopes to break three other records that have been on the books for more than 50 years. They include the highest manned balloon flight, the first person to break the speed of sound in freefall and the longest freefall.
Baumgartner plans another test run, from 90,000 feet, before attempting The Big One this summer. The launch window is open from July through October.
“This test serves as the perfect motivation for the team for the next step,” he said.