Daredevil Jumps, and Lands on His Feet

might as well jump

Felix Baumgartner, the professional daredevil, jumped from a balloon more than 24 miles above the Earth on Sunday, and landed safely on his feet.
Just minutes earlier, Mr. Baumgartner stood on the edge of his capsule completing a final checklist before jumping into a near vacuum at above 127,000 feet, or more than 24 miles. He landed in the eastern New Mexico desert, and lifted his arms in victory. His support team and family cheered.
Mr. Baumgartner took 2 hours 21 minutes to reach the height, lifting off in an enormous helium balloon that smoothly carried him through the critical first 4,000 feet — called the Dead Zone because it would be impossible to parachute to safety.
From the sky above the New Mexico desert he had hoped to make the highest jump in historyand become the first sky diver to break the speed of sound. Before the jump, Mr. Baumgartner went through a checklist with help from Joe Kittinger, 84, the retired Air Force colonel who in 1960 jumped from 102,800 feet, setting records that remained more than half a century later — and that Mr. Baumgartner was hoping to break.
Exact times, distances and records were not immediately known; mission control said it needed to retrieve the data from computer chips in Mr. Baumgartner’s suit.
During the second hour of ascent, Mr. Baumgartner complained to Mr. Kittinger that the heating system in his visor was not working properly, and the visor was fogging up. At that point viewers following the live feed of the mission stopped hearing the men’s conversation. The Red Bull Stratos team said that Mr. Kittinger had decided to “enable private conversation.”
He again complained about fog in his visor during his jump, but it did not seem to impede his ability to gain control during his fall.
The mission required the largest balloon ever used for a manned flight. Made of 40 acres of ultrathin plastic, it had been described as an inflated dry-cleaning bag that would fill the Los Angeles Coliseum.
When inflated and attached to Mr. Baumgartner’s pressurized capsule, the balloon towered 750 feet above the ground. The winds at that level and at the ground had to be less than three miles an hour for it to be launched safely, so that there was no chance of the balloon lurching and smashing the capsule into the ground.
Mr. Baumgartner, wearing a pressurized suit to survive in the near vacuum at the edge of space, had hoped reach a speed of more than 700 miles an hour. Mr. Baumgartner was backed by a NASA-style mission control operation at an airfield in Roswell that involved 300 people, including more than 70 engineers, scientists and physicians who have been working for five years on the project, called Red Bull Stratos, after the drink company that has financed it.
Besides aiming at records, the engineers and scientists on the Red Bull Stratos team are gathering and publishing reams of data intended to help future pilots, astronauts and perhaps space tourists survive if they have to bail out.
“We’re testing new space suits, escape concepts, and treatment protocols for pressure loss at extreme altitudes,” said the Red Bull Stratos medical director, Dr. Jonathan Clark, who formerly oversaw the health of space shuttle crews at NASA. “There are so many things that could go wrong here that we’re pushing the technical envelope.”
While building the customized suit and capsule, the team of aerospace veterans had to contend with one crucial uncertainty: What happens to the human body when it breaks the sound barrier? There was also one major unexpected problem for Mr. Baumgartner, 43, an Austrian daredevil and former paratrooper known to his fans as Fearless Felix.
Although he had no trouble jumping off buildings and bridges, and across the English Channel in a carbon-fiber wing, he found himself suffering panic attacks when forced to spend hours inside the pressurized suit and helmet. At one point in 2010, rather than take an endurance test in it, he went to an airport and fled the United States. With the help of a sports psychologist and other specialists, he learned techniques for dealing with the claustrophobia.

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