It’s been one year since Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner made the highest jump of all time. The Red Bull Stratos project was part science, part adventure, and of course part caffeinated beverage promotion overload. In the end, the successful leap from 127,851 feet set a new height mark, and Baumgartner became the first person ever to exceed the sound barrier in free fall.
But the flight wasn’t without its drama. As many watched live last year, Baumgartner entered a spin about a minute into the flight. A relatively mild instability beginning about 25 seconds into the jump appeared to stabilize as he accelerated towards his top speed of Mach 1.25 (844 mph). But as Baumgartner continued to fall through the very thin air, the lack of control was apparent and the spin progressed into something that looks much worse from his point of view than it did from the outside.
In the video above, you can see him transition onto his back, and the rate of spin accelerates (along with his heart rate), as he passes about 90,000 feet.
Soon thereafter, he begins to use his arms in an effort to control the spin, much as a figure skater can change their rate of rotation on the ice. Baumgartner tries using just one at arm at a time to regain control, and eventually the veteran skydiver manages to stabilize his free fall after more than 20 heart-pumping seconds.
After that it’s a relatively calm — if you think breaking the sound barrier in an astronaut suit is calm — with three more minutes of free fall to the ground as the sky transitions from black to blue. Eventually he deploys his parachute and enjoys a few more minutes before touching down in the New Mexico desert.
In addition to the impressive POV video above, Red Bull has released a feature-length documentary about the Red Bull Stratos project that can be seen here.
By Jason Paur
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