The Red Bull Stratos team is about to attempt the first ever skydive from 23 miles up (120,000 feet, 37 km).
Felix Baumgartner is a daredevil or adrenaline junkie. He likes jumping from high places and soaring through the air. He has set numerous world records in the process.
He broke the world record for the highest parachute jump from a building in 1999. He did this by jumping from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
He skydived across the English Channel in 2003. Heck, he even set the world record for the lowest base jump. He did this by jumping from the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The video of this jump is below.
The first ever high altitude sky diving pioneer was Joseph Kittinger. He set several world records in 1960 when he jumped from a height of 19 miles (102,800 feet, 31 km).
The spacesuits worn by astronauts today are certified up to an altitude of 100,000 feet. This is because that is the height that Kittinger reached in 1960. He also reached a speed of 614 mph (988 kph), which is just shy of the speed of sound (at that altitude).
Nobody knows exactly what happens to a human body when it breaks the sound barrier. In 2010 Neil Armstrong, a test pilot himself for many years, commented that it should be possible.
Red Bull Stratos
The goal of the Stratos mission being sponsored by Red Bull is to break the sky diving record set in 1960. Red Bull is the well-known energy drink maker. The team has been preparing for the jump for five years. The pilot, Felix Baumgartner, will attempt a jump from 23 miles up (102,800 feet, 37 km). The team is hoping that Felix will also become the first man to go supersonic without the use of a vehicle.
In the tradition of NASA mission controls, the only person allowed to speak to Felix during the flight will be Joseph Kittinger, who is a member of the ground crew.
Baumgartner is a former military parachutist from Austria. As can be seen in the videos, at 43 years of age he is in great physical shape.
The balloon will be filled with helium and measures 55 stories high. The balloon envelope is about one tenth the thickness of a sandwich bag. Filled with helium, it requires wind speeds of 3 mph (5 kph) before it can take off.
The ascent to jump height will take about three hours. There are nearly 30 cameras in the capsule, the ground, and a helicopter. For safety reasons, a 20 second delay will be incorporated into the live broadcast of the launch, jump, and landing.
Two successful practice jumps already occurred earlier this year. One was from 15 miles (24 km) in March and another from 18 miles (29 km) in July.
Facing temperatures as low as -69F (-56C), the entire jump is expected to take 10 minutes.
Update 1 – 11:19AM MDT, October 9, 2012
Felix’s jump is imminent! Watch the live video feed below.
Update 2 – 11:43AM MDT, October 2012
Half an hour ago the winds were calm, but they then suddenly picked up. Mission control just called an abort on the jump attempt today. The earliest expected next weather window is on Thursday.