(Kyle Henning) On October 14, 2012 Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from a helium-filled balloon 38,969.4 m (127,852.4 ft) above the Earth. He experienced 25.2 seconds of pure weightlessness as his body accelerated to 1,357.6 kmh (843.6 mph), or Mach 1.25 during 4 minutes and 20 seconds of freefall. His jump was the first to ever break the sound barrier. These numbers were confirmed on February 5, 2013 by the International Air-Sports Federation.
Baumgartner’s jump broke previous records held by US Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger who jumped from 31,300 m (102,800 ft.), reaching 988 kmh (614 mph) in 1960. He served on Team Stratos as Baumgartner’s primary point of radio contact during his 2012 balloon ascent.
The Red Bull Stratos mission involved more than 200 people and tested new equipment and medical procedures. The jump proved it possible for the human body to withstand supersonic freefall, and for the deployment of a personal parachute at supersonic speeds. Highly accurate altimeters and stabilizer drogues were developed to enable the long descent. Technological innovations addressed other issues including the heating of Baumgartern’s facemask (video).
New medical procedures to treat ebullism, a condition where blood can spontaneously boil in the extremely low air pressure above 19,200 m (63,000 ft.), were developed in the event that Baumgartner suffered the effects. A special respirator developed by the team to treat the effects in human lungs will become part of future clinical procedures.
As commercial spaceflight approaches, these engineering and medical developments could lead to the development of escape capsules and supersonic parachutes for use in emergencies. Treatment for ebullism could save lives in the event that a space traveler is exposed to an extreme vacuum.
One year on, the Red Bull Stratos team has released a documentary film of the project online. The film chronicles the planning, the jump, and the tangible results from the data collected. New HD footage is featured, including from Baumgartner’s chest during descent.
Felix Baumgartner’s Previous Jumps:
1997 – World Champion title for B.A.S.E. Jumping, West Virginia, USA
1999 – World Record for Highest B.A.S.E. Jump from a Building, Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 450 m (1,479 ft.)
2004 – World Record for Highest B.A.S.E. Jump from highest bridge in the world, Millau Bridge, France, 343 m (1,125 ft.)
2007 – B.A.S.E. Jump from world’s tallest building, 101 Tower, Taipei, 509 m (1,670 ft.)
Colonel Joe Kittinger’s World Records:
1960 – Highest Parachute Jump, 31,300 m (102,800 ft.)
– Longest Parachute Freefall, 4 min. 36 sec.
1983 – Longest Distance flown in a 1,000 cubic meter helium balloon, solo flight of 2,001 miles in 72 hours from Las Vegas, Nevada to Franklinville, New York, USA.
1984 – First person to fly solo across Atlantic Ocean in a helium balloon, Maine to Italy.
2010 – Inductee of National Ballooning Hall of Fame and National Skydiving Hall of Fame.
Previously from ExplorersWeb:
Felix Baumgartner's Record Space Jump videos and photos
Best of ExplorersWeb 2012 Awards: Felix Baumgartner, the Man who Fell from Space
Video: Felix Baumgartner's World Record Supersonic Freefall - The Official Findings
Watch the Official Film:
Mission to the Edge of Space: The Inside Story of Red Bull Stratos