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Sky Diver Parachutist Felix Baumgartner Sets New World Records

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, October 14, 2012

As I had opined earlier, while the the otherwise reputable New York Times headlines him as “daredevil” (and doubtless, there is an element to that), he is much more than a mere thrill-seeker. There is significant, and legitimate science being undertaken in this mission.

Further, so-called “daredevils” rarely prepare 5ive years for their stunts, as did Mr. Baumgartner and his team.

Daredevil Jumps, and Lands on His Feet

By JOHN TIERNEY
The New York Times
October 14, 2012

Felix Baumgartner walks toward capsule

Before the jump, Mr. Baumgartner went through a checklist with help from Joe Kittinger, 84, the retired Air Force colonel who in 1960 jumped from 102,800 feet, setting records that remained more than half a century later — and that Mr. Baumgartner was hoping to break. – Credit: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Stratos, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ROSWELL, N.M. — Felix Baumgartner, the professional daredevil, said he was not thinking about setting records or collecting scientific data in the moments before he jumped from a capsule more than 24 miles high.

He was just thinking about making it back to Earth.

“Trust me, when you stand up there on top of the world, you become so humble. It’s not about breaking records anymore. It’s not about getting scientific data. It’s all about coming home,” Mr. Baumgarter said after returning by helicopter to mission control in Roswell.

“It was harder than I expected,” he said.

Felix Baumgartner largest balloon ever

A helium-filled balloon, the largest ever used for a manned flight, lifted the capsule into the air. – Ross Franklin/Associated Press –

People around the world watched on the Web as Mr. Baumgartner stood on the edge of his capsule completing a final checklist, then jumped into a near vacuum at above 127,000 feet, or more than 24 miles. Minutes later he landed on his feet in the eastern New Mexico desert, and lifted his arms in victory.

Back at mission control and in a waiting room, his support team and family cheered.

Mr. Baumgartner, 43, a former Austrian paratrooper, took 2 hours 21 minutes to reach the height, lifting off in an enormous helium balloon that smoothly carried him through the critical first 4,000 feet — called the Dead Zone because it would be impossible to parachute to safety if something went wrong at that point.

From the sky above the New Mexico desert he had hoped to make the highest jump in history and become the first sky diver to break the speed of sound.

His leap seemed to be the longest ever, beating the existing distance record by about 25,000 feet, but exact times, distances and other records were not immediately known; mission control said it first needed to retrieve the data from computer chips in Mr. Baumgartner’s suit.

Before the jump, Mr. Baumgartner went through a checklist with help from Joe Kittinger, 84, the retired Air Force colonel who in 1960 jumped from 102,800 feet, setting records that remained more than half a century later — which Mr. Baumgartner was hoping to break.

During the second hour of ascent, Mr. Baumgartner complained to Mr. Kittinger that the heating system in his visor was not working properly, and the visor was fogging up. At that point viewers following the live feed of the mission stopped hearing the men’s conversation. The Red Bull Stratos team said that Mr. Kittinger had decided to “enable private conversation.”

After his leap into space Mr. Baumgartner again complained about fog in his visor, but it did not seem to impede his ability to gain control during his fall.

Felix Baumgartner capsule

Mr. Baumgartner, wearing a pressurized suit to survive in the near vacuum at the edge of space, planned to step off the capsule above 120,000 feet and quickly break the sound barrier, reaching a speed of more than 700 miles an hour. – Credit: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Stratos, via Reuters

The mission required the largest balloon ever used for a manned flight. Made of 40 acres of ultrathin plastic, it had been described as an inflated dry-cleaning bag that would fill the Los Angeles Coliseum.

When inflated and attached to Mr. Baumgartner’s pressurized capsule, the balloon towered 750 feet above the ground.

An earlier attempt to inflate the balloon and carry out the mission had to be abandoned last week because of weather. The winds at the balloon’s height and at the ground had to be less than three miles an hour for it to be launched safely, so that there was no chance of the balloon lurching and smashing the capsule into the ground.

Until the last minute on Sunday, it was not certain that the mission would actually happen.

Mr. Baumgartner, wearing a pressurized suit to survive in the near vacuum at the edge of space, had hoped to reach a speed of more than 700 miles an hour.

He was backed by a NASA-style mission control operation at an airfield in Roswell that involved 300 people, including more than 70 engineers, scientists and physicians who have been working for five years on the project, called Red Bull Stratos, after the drink company that has financed it.

Felix Baumgartner exits capsule

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria exits the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on October 14, 2012. Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Content Pool

Besides aiming at records, the engineers and scientists on the Red Bull Stratos team are gathering and publishing reams of data intended to help future pilots, astronauts and perhaps space tourists survive if they have to bail out.

“We’re testing new space suits, escape concepts and treatment protocols for pressure loss at extreme altitudes,” said the Red Bull Stratos medical director, Dr. Jonathan Clark, who formerly oversaw the health of space shuttle crews at NASA. “There are so many things that could go wrong here that we’re pushing the technical envelope.”

While building the customized suit and capsule, the team of aerospace veterans had to contend with one crucial uncertainty: What happens to the human body when it breaks the sound barrier?

There was also one major unexpected problem for Mr. Baumgartner, known to his fans as Fearless Felix.

Although he had no trouble jumping off buildings and bridges, and soaring across the English Channel in a carbon-fiber wing, he found himself suffering panic attacks when forced to spend hours inside the pressurized suit and helmet. At one point in 2010, rather than take an endurance test in it, he went to an airport and fled the United States. With the help of a sports psychologist and other specialists, he learned techniques for dealing with the claustrophobia.

One of the techniques Mr. Baumgartner developed for dealing with claustrophobia was to stay busy throughout the ascent. Mr. Baumgartner conversed steadily, in Austrian-accented English, with Mr. Kittinger, a former fighter pilot whose deep voice exuded the right stuff as he confidently went through a 40-item checklist rehearsing every move that Mr. Baumgartner would make when it came time to leave the capsule — tasks like sliding his seat forward, checking his parachutes and carefully opening the hatch.

Felix Baumgartner stepping off ledge

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria jumps out of the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on October 14, 2012. Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Content Pool

“Item 38: stand up on the exterior step but be sure to duck your head down low as you go out that door,” Mr. Kittinger said. After Mr. Baumgartner confirmed that and the next two steps, Mr. Kittinger said, “The rest is yours.”

They finished that rehearsal one hour into the ascent, after the balloon had ascended safely through the jet stream and reached 60,000 feet. It was still visible from the ground by naked eye. Through binoculars, it could be observed growing wider as the helium expanded in the thinning stratosphere.

As the balloon rose in the sky, viewers from around the world went to YouTube to watch a live video stream from the capsule and mission control. By the time Mr. Baumgartner made his leap into space, the audience grew to a peak of 8 million watching at the same time, which appeared to be a record; YouTube’s previous record for concurrent viewership was around half a million, set during the Summer Olympics earlier this year.

The mission was also shown on the Discovery Channel, the only live television broadcaster, but viewership figures were not immediately available. Television networks like CNN replayed the jump right after it happened.

Besides being his most complex challenge, the stratospheric jump is also the one most likely to be made into a buddy movie, thanks to the friendship that he developed with Mr. Kittinger, who helped train Mr. Baumgartner.

Mr. Kittinger, a former test pilot, set his records in a 1960 trip to the stratosphere. Early during that ascent, also over New Mexico, in an Air Force balloon, one of his pressurized gloves leaked, but he was so determined to keep going that he did not report the problem, even after his hand swelled to twice its normal size.

Ignoring the pain, he rode the balloon up to 102,800 feet and said a short prayer — “Lord, take care of me now” — before stepping off. He reached a speed of 614 miles an hour and spent 4 minutes, 36 seconds in free fall. Those records were repeatedly challenged during the ensuing half century, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Felix Baumgartner reaches 729mph 49 seconds into freefall

Felix Baumgartner reaches 729mph 49 seconds into freefall

The original stratospheric jump by Mr. Kittinger was part of an Air Force program studying ways to help pilots survive high-altitude bailouts. It experimented with a small parachute, called a drogue, to prevent the jumper’s body from going into a flat spin — a hazard that almost killed Mr. Kittinger in a preliminary jump in 1959. When his drogue chute became entangled around his neck, his body spun at 120 revolutions a minute, causing him to black out until his emergency parachute automatically deployed. An improved version of that drogue chute is now used by military pilots who have to bail out in the ejection-seats used by pilots.

Mr. Baumgartner was equipped with his own customized high-tech drogue chute but as a precaution — to be activated only if he began spinning out of control. Otherwise, he planned to avoid using it because the drogue chute would have slowed him down just enough to prevent him from going supersonic.

To avoid spinning out of control, Mr. Baumgartner practiced doing a bunny hop out of the capsule and controlling his body so that it rotated into headfirst position for the supersonic descent.

“We try to anticipate as much as we can about supersonic speed,” Dr. Clark said before the jump, “but we don’t really know, because nobody has done this before.”

Brian Stelter contributed reporting from Damascus, Md.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 14, 2012

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the inflation of the balloon. It started at 10:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, not standard time.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/us/felix-baumgartner-skydiving.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&&pagewanted=print

Skydiver Felix Baumgartner breaks sound barrier

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent
14 October 2012 Last updated at 17:50 ET

Austrian Felix Baumgartner has become the first skydiver to break the speed of sound, reaching a top speed of 833.9mph (1,342km/h), officials say.

Felix Baumgartner jumps

Felix Baumgartner jumping from capsule

The 43-year-old jumped out of a balloon 128,000ft (24 miles, 39km) above New Mexico, breaking the record for the highest skydive.

He said he almost aborted the jump because his helmet visor frosted up.

It took just under 10 minutes for him to land safely, but he did not set a record for the longest freefall.

Video cameras relayed the moment Baumgartner stepped from his balloon capsule to begin his fall to Earth.

Only the last few thousand feet were negotiated by parachute. Once down, he fell to his knees and raised his fists in triumph. Helicopter recovery teams were on hand moments later.

“When you’re standing there on top of the world you become so humble. The only thing is you want to come back alive,” he said at a press conference after he landed.

None of the new marks set by Baumgartner can be classed as “official” until endorsed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI).

Its representative was the first to greet the skydiver on the ground. GPS data recorded on to a microcard in the Austrian’s chest pack will form the basis for any height and speed claims that are made.

There was concern early in the dive that he was in trouble. Baumgartner was supposed to get himself into a delta position – head down, arms back – as soon as possible after leaving his capsule. But the video showed him tumbling over and over.

Eventually, however, he was able to use his great experience, from more than 2,500 career skydives, to correct his fall and get into a stable configuration.

Even before this drama, it was thought the mission might have to be aborted. As he went through last-minute checks inside the capsule, it was found that a heater for his visor was not working. This meant the visor fogged up as he exhaled.

“This is very serious, Joe,” he told retired US Air Force Col Joe Kittinger, whose records he was attempting to break, and who was acting as his radio link in mission control at Roswell airport.

Baumgartner’s efforts have finally toppled records that have stood for more than 50 years.

The previous highest, farthest, and longest freefall was made by Col Kittinger, who leapt from a helium envelope in 1960. His altitude was 102,800ft (31.3km). (His mark for the longest freefall remains intact; he fell for more that four and a half minutes before deploying his chute.)

Col Kittinger, now an octogenarian, has been an integral part of Baumgartner’s team, and has provided the Austrian with advice and encouragement whenever he has doubted his ability to complete such a daring venture.
Deadly feat

Felix Baumgartner landed

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria celebrates after successfully completing the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on October 14, 2012. balazsgardi.com/Red Bull Content Pool

The 43-year-old adventurer – perhaps best known for leaping off skyscrapers – first discussed the possibility of beating Col Kittinger’s records in 2005.

Since then, he has had to battle technical and budgetary challenges to make it happen.

What he was proposing was extremely dangerous, even for a man used to those skyscraper stunts.

At an altitude of 120,000ft (36.5km), the air pressure is less than 2% of what it is at sea level, and it is impossible to breathe without an oxygen supply.

Others who have tried to break the records for the highest, fastest and longest freefalls have lost their lives in the process.

Baumgartner’s team built him a special pressurised capsule to protect him on the way up, and for his descent he wore a next generation, full pressure suit made by the same company that prepares the flight suits of astronauts.

Felix Baumgartner landed & mission director

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria and Technical Project Director Art Thompson of the Unites States celebrate after successfully completing the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on October 14, 2012. Jörg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool

Although the jump had the appearance of another Baumgartner stunt, his team stressed its high scientific relevance.

The researchers on the Red Bull Stratos project say it has already provided invaluable data for the development of high-performance, high-altitude parachute systems, and that the lessons learned will inform the development of new ideas for emergency evacuation from vehicles, such as spacecraft, passing through the stratosphere.

Nasa and its spacecraft manufacturers have asked to be kept informed.

Jon Clark is the medical director on the team. The former shuttle flight surgeon lost his wife in the Columbia accident in 2003.

He said Baumgartner’s experience could help save the lives of future astronauts who get into trouble.

A BBC/National Geographic documentary is being made about the project and will probably be aired in November.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19943590

24 Miles, 4 Minutes and 834 M.P.H., All in One Jump

By JOHN TIERNEY, October 14, 2012

ROSWELL, N.M. — A man fell to Earth from more than 24 miles high Sunday, becoming the first human to break the sound barrier under his own power — with some help from gravity.

The man, Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian daredevil, made the highest and fastest jump in history after ascending by a helium balloon to an altitude of 128,100 feet. As millions around the world experienced the vertiginous view from his capsule’s camera, which showed a round blue world surrounded by the black of space, he stepped off into the void and plummeted for more than four minutes, reaching a maximum speed measured at 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24.

He broke altitude and speed records set half a century ago by Joe Kittinger, now 84, a retired Air Force colonel whose reassuring voice from mission control guided Mr. Baumgartner through tense moments. Engineers considered aborting the mission when Mr. Baumgartner’s faceplate began fogging during the ascent, but he insisted on proceeding and made plans for doing the jump blind.

That proved unnecessary, but a new crisis occurred early in the jump when he began spinning out of control in the thin air of the stratosphere — the same problem that had nearly killed Mr. Kittinger a half-century earlier. But as the atmosphere thickened, Mr. Baumgartner managed to stop the spin and fall smoothly until he opened his parachute about a mile above the ground and landed smoothly in the New Mexico desert.

“It was harder than I expected,” said Mr. Baumgartner, a 43-year-old former Austrian paratrooper. “Trust me, when you stand up there on top of the world, you become so humble. It’s not about breaking records any more. It’s not about getting scientific data. It’s all about coming home.”

Mr. Kittinger praised Mr. Baumgartner’s courage for proceeding with the mission and said that he had more than broken a record.

“He demonstrated that a man could survive in an extremely high altitude escape situation,” Mr. Kittinger said. “Future astronauts will wear the spacesuit that Felix test-jumped today.”

Mr. Baumgartner was backed by a NASA-style mission control operation at an airfield in Roswell that involved 300 people, including more than 70 engineers, scientists and physicians who have been working for five years on the project, called Red Bull Stratos, after the drink company that has financed it.

Besides aiming at records, the engineers and scientists on the Red Bull Stratos team have been gathering and publishing reams of data intended to help future pilots, astronauts and perhaps space tourists survive if they have to bail out.

“We’re testing new spacesuits, escape concepts and treatment protocols for pressure loss at extreme altitudes,” said the Red Bull Stratos medical director, Dr. Jonathan Clark, who formerly oversaw the health of space shuttle crews at NASA. “There are so many things that could go wrong here that we’re pushing the technical envelope.”

While building the customized suit and capsule, the team of aerospace veterans had to contend with one crucial uncertainty: What happens to the human body when it breaks the sound barrier? There was also one major unexpected problem for Mr. Baumgartner, known to his fans as Fearless Felix.

Although he had no trouble jumping off buildings and bridges, and soaring across the English Channel in a carbon-fiber wing, he found himself suffering panic attacks when forced to spend hours inside the pressurized suit and helmet. At one point in 2010, rather than take an endurance test in it, he went to an airport and fled the United States. With the help of a sports psychologist and other specialists, he learned techniques for dealing with the claustrophobia.

One of the techniques Mr. Baumgartner developed was to stay busy throughout the ascent. He conversed steadily with Mr. Kittinger, a former fighter pilot whose deep voice exuded the right stuff as he confidently went through a 40-item checklist rehearsing every move that Mr. Baumgartner would make when it came time to leave the capsule.

When the actual moment came, Mr. Kittinger said to him, “All right, step up on the exterior step. Start the cameras. And our guardian angel will take care of you now.”

Mr. Baumgartner stepped outside, saluted and made the jump right after delivering a message that was mostly garbled by radio static. Afterward, he repeated it: “I know the whole world is watching, and I wish the whole world could see what I see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.”

Engineers forecast that Mr. Baumgartner would reach a supersonic speed of 720 miles an hour by jumping from 120,000 feet, the altitude that they had promised to reach. But all along they had hoped the balloon would go even higher — and lead to an even faster fall, which did occur. As a result, even though he fell farther than Mr. Kittinger
did, his fall took less time: 4 minutes and 20 seconds, which was 16 seconds less than Mr. Kittinger’s.

Mr. Baumgartner jumped from an altitude of 128,100 feet and landed in desert about 4,000 above sea level, so the jump from capsule to the ground covered about 23 and a half miles.

When Mr. Baumgartner lost control of his body during the early part of the jump, he feared going into a flat spin that would send blood away from the center of his body.

“At a certain R.P.M.,” he said afterward, “there’s only one way for blood to leave your body, and that’s through your eyeballs. That means you’re dead. That was what we feared most.”

Because of the limited sensation inside his pressurized suit, he said recovering from a spin was much more difficult than during an ordinary dive.

“As a sky-diver, you can feel the air on your right shoulder and you immediately know what to do,” he said. “Here you don’t feel the air, so you have to wait until the air pushes you around. Then you think, ‘Oh, it pushed me around clockwise — that means I have to do this.’ ”

Brian Utley of the FAI, the international federation that certifies aerospace records, calculated the height and speed of the jump by independently analyzing data gathered on microchips in Mr. Baumgartner’s suit. After a thorough analysis of the data is made over the next several weeks, Mr. Utley said, the precise official figures might be slightly different, but he had no doubt that Mr. Baumgartner had set a supersonic speed record.

As the balloon rose in the sky, viewers from around the world went to YouTube to watch a live video stream from the capsule and mission control. By the time Mr. Baumgartner made his leap into space, the audience grew to a peak of eight million.

Brian Stelter contributed reporting from Damascus, Md.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 14, 2012

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the inflation of the balloon. It started at 10:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, not standard time.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 14, 2012

An earlier version of a Web summary on this article said incorrectly that Mr. Baumgartner jumped from a balloon. He jumped from a capsule lifted by a balloon.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/us/felix-baumgartner-skydiving.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&&pagewanted=print

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