Client: Ramsay 2 of 8 October
Website: Techno News
Title: One giant leap for mankind
Keywords: Popular science/ science news/ sci tech news/ mechanics
Our fascination with the cosmos has been a long and lasting love affair – recently we sent Curiosity to Mars and now science news is buzzing about Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the frontiers of space.
My whole family gathered around my brother’s laptop, watching as 43 year old, skydiving expert Felix Baumgartner ascended to new heights. As the balloon carried the tiny capsule higher and higher, I could feel my own heart fluttering and I simply couldn’t imagine what thoughts were running through Felix’s head. What do you feel when you’re about to free fall at enough speed to break the sound barrier?
Once he reached a record altitude of 39, 044 metres, Felix began to perform his final checks and the door suddenly swung open revealing the world below – so far away that you could see the curvature of the earth. Felix edged forwards and swung his legs out the door, readying himself to jump from the edge of space. My family was completely quiet at this point, absolutely transfixed.
He finished his checks and then all of a sudden, simply flung himself out the door thundering through the stratosphere. He showed up as a small white dot on the screen, accelerating at a phenomenal pace, reaching an estimated speed of 1,137 km, which when certified, will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in free fall. Although he initially spun quite dramatically, he managed to gain control and dived effortlessly towards the earth.
Felix’s extraordinary feat occurred precisely 65 years after Chuck Yeager initially broke the sound barrier in an experimental rocket-powered plane. The adventurous Austrian broke a number of records, including the highest manned balloon flight and highest freefall, while his project mentor, Joe Kittinger retains the record for the longest freefall.
During his descent, Felix’s visor started fogging up, but apart from this small glitch and the initial spinning, the jump went remarkably smoothly. After he hit his maximum speed of 1,137 km/h through the near vacuum of the stratosphere, the atmosphere then slowed his pace and his 4:19 minute freefall came to an end when he successfully deployed his parachute, amidst cheers from the ground crew team. The jump lasted for 9:03 minutes altogether, before Felix safely landed in New Mexico’s desert.
Felix had this to say about his remarkable accomplishment: ‘It was an incredible up and down today, just like it’s been with the whole project. First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor.The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I’d just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I’d lose consciousness. I didn’t feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilise myself. We’ll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
The mechanics of the jump were carefully co-ordinated and after five years of planning and training, the RedbullStratos Mission is complete and was witnessed by millions of people around the world. The mission has gone a long way to improving our scientific understanding of how the human body copes with extreme conditions at the edge of space and was truly a moment of triumph for everyone involved.