Red Bull-fueled daredevil plans record skydive from edge of space
Austrian extreme skydiver Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend in a helium balloon to about 23 miles up, and then jump. He will break the sound barrier during freefall.
One man's quest to make a record-breaking leap from near the edge of space is nearing make-or-break time.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Hot air ballooning
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If he can do it, he'll become the first person to break the sound barrier outside of an aircraft. He'll also break a trio of other records that have stood for more than 50 years: Baumgartner's plunge would mark the highest skydive, the highest manned balloon flight and the longest free fall, at about 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
The quest, called Red Bull Stratos, recently got back on track after being stalled by a legal challenge claiming that the idea of the dive was earlier suggested to Red Bull by California promoter Daniel Hogan. That suit has now been settled out of court, and the Red Bull Stratos project is moving forward.
Jumping for science
While the dive will certainly offer an adrenaline rush and major bragging rights, Baumgartner says he's jumping for science, too.
The team will study Baumgartner's physical condition and the effects of such a dive on the human body in an effort to better understand how people can survive in space. [Photos: Training for Red Bull's Supersonic Space Jump]
"This mission is all about pioneer work," Baumgartner said in a statement released Tuesday (Feb. 7). "Maybe one day people will look back and say it was Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team that helped to develop the suit that they're wearing in space. We want to do something for posterity."
The Red Bull Stratos team also includes aerospace engineers who are custom-designing cutting-edge technology for the jump.
"We'll be setting new standards for aviation," said Red Bull Stratos medical director Jonathan Clark, a former space shuttle crew surgeon. "Never before has anyone gone supersonic without being in an aircraft. Red Bull Stratos is testing new equipment and developing the procedures for inhabiting such high altitudes as well as enduring such extreme acceleration. The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists."
To make the dive, Baumgartner will ascend higher than four times the height of Mount Everest inside a custom-made pressurized capsule pulled up by a single helium-filled plastic balloon about 600 feet (182 meters) wide.