Baumgartner Initial Test Jump a Success
Felix Baumgartner steps out of the capsule to jump from 71,580 feet altitude.
The Red Bull Stratos balloon begins its ascent to altitude.
March 22, 2012 – Austria's Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos project are fixing to break the longstanding altitude record for skydiving held by Joe Kittinger, and last week the team took a big leap toward that goal when Baumgartner jumped out of a specially made pressurized capsule for the first time from 71,580 feet over New Mexico. During the 13-mile, eight-minute and eight-second drop back to Earth, he reached a new record speed of nearly 365 mph, enduring temperatures as cold as minus 94°F. The team plans a 120,000-foot drop later this year to establish a new altitude record.
After the successful test jump on March 15, Baumgartner said the most difficult part was the extreme cold he encountered. "I could hardly move my hands," he said. "We're going to have to do some work on that aspect." Red Bull Stratos reported that he also needs to get used to the vastness of space. "I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while, but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of 50,000 feet," he said.
Along with the record speed, Baumgartner became only the third person ever to jump from above 70,000 feet (joining Kittinger and Eugene Andreev of the Soviet Union). The three are also the only people to ever rise above the so-called “Armstrong Line” - about 62,000 feet - above which humans cannot survive without a spacesuit to protect them from depressurization and lack of oxygen.
Both the capsule system and stratospheric balloon functioned exactly as planned, according to balloon launch director Ed Coca. After Baumgartner’s descent, the capsule separated from the balloon with an explosive device, deployed a chute, and later landed undamaged in the desert as the balloon deflated remotely and fell back to Earth.
Next up: Another test jump, from 90,000 feet, once seasonally windy conditions subside in the New Mexico desert as blustery conditions make it impossible to launch this kind of balloon. Plans for the record attempt are for later this year.