Capsule Declared 'Mission Ready' for Record Freefall Attempt
Felix Baumgartner, left, and Joe Kittinger pictured with the capsule that Baumgartner hopes will enter his name into the aeronautical record books (and erase Kittinger's).
March 8, 2012 – The capsule that will bring Austrian pilot Felix Baumgartner to the edge of space for his attempt to set a new world record free fall is "mission ready," according to the Red Bull Stratos science team. A stratospheric balloon will lift the capsule to more than 120,000 feet; then Baumgartner will jump out in an attempt to break four records held by Joe Kittinger and set more that 50 years ago. A spokesperson from Red Bull said the team hopes to achieve the 120,000-foot attempt this summer.
On August 16, 1960, Col. Joe Kittinger of the United States Air Force set the longstanding highest ascent record, riding a balloon to 102,800 feet during the historic Excelsior III project, then leapt out and made the highest skydive on record. Baumgartner also hopes to become the first person to break the speed of sound without the protection of an aircraft, and set a record for the longest freefall (estimated at 5 minutes, 30 seconds).
The jump will also allow scientists to collect data never before obtained for the advancement of medical science. Dr. Jonathan Clark, Red Bull Stratos medical director and crew surgeon for six shuttle flights, wants to explore the effects of acceleration to supersonic velocity on humans.
"We'll be setting new standards for aviation," he said. "Never before has anyone reached the speed of sound without being in an aircraft. The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists."
For Baumgartner this project is much more than merely attempting to break another record. "This mission is all about pioneer work. 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."
Kittinger has been involved as an advisor to the Red Bull Stratos project from the very beginning and serves as Baumgartner's mentor.
Weighing 2,900 pounds fully loaded, the capsule took five years to develop and will act as Baumgartner's life support system during his nearly three-hour ascent to 120,000 feet. It is a sealed capsule rather than the gondola used by Kittinger because according to the science team the additional altitude of the Red Bull Stratos mission means that there are exponentially greater hazards from exposure to freezing temperatures – as cold as minus 70°F - oxygen deprivation, and low air pressure. The sealed capsule will also offer a stable oxygenated and pressurized environment during the ascent.