The Red Bull Stratos mission is a team of Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian base jumper, along with over 100 support staff. The aim of this mission was jump from the edge of the world from a helium balloon and capsule, over 24 miles above the earth’s surface. This mission aimed to break the following world records:
1) The first human to break the sound barrier without the assistance of a vehicle
2) The highest skydive
3) The highest manned balloon flight
4) The longest time in freefall
On October 14th 2012, 3 of these 4 world records were broken when the Red Bull Stratos mission finally launched. The original date was planned for October 9th, but this was called off due to weather conditions; however when the weather conditions finally became favourable for launch on October 14th, Felix Baumgartner began his accent up to a record breaking 24 miles, or 120,000ft above the earth’s surface. After pressurizing his suit and stepping out onto the ledge of the pod, Felix Baumgartner gave a quick salute, and then jumped.
At first the free fall seemed to be going smoothly, however soon he began spinning uncontrollably – something that could lead to death if continued due to the blood rushing to his head. However Felix’s extensive training came into play and he quickly managed to regain stability and stop the spin.
Next came another problem - the visor on the suit that Felix was wearing began to fog up. This meant that he had almost no vision, and subsequently no idea what speed he was falling at, or what his altitude was because he could not see his watch where this information was available. He had the obvious problem that he did not want to pull his parachute before he had broken the speed of sound, or before he had broken the time for the longest time in free fall; however he did not want to pull his chute too late either.
Felix Baumgartner finally deployed his parachute after a time of 4 min 19 sec in free fall and landed in the New Mexico Desert, this time falls just shy of the record of 4min 36sec. Even though this was not achieved, Felix did gain the accolade of becoming the first man to go supersonic in free fall, and did so by 100 mph over the speed of sound - a giant step in further aeronautical design as experts were previously unsure of what would happen to the human body at this speed. He also broke the ‘Highest manned balloon flight’ as well as ‘the highest skydive’.
This incredible achievement was watched by over 7 million people worldwide, and the video of the events have been watched back on YouTube by countless million more, demonstrating the public’s avid fascination of such a dangerous, yet important space stunt.
“When you’re standing there, on top of the world, you become so humble. You do not think about breaking records anymore or collecting scientific data, the only thing you want is to come back alive to your girlfriend and family”. Felix Baumgartner, 2012.