Monday, October 27, 2014

High-Altitude Skydiver Breaks Felix Baumgartner's Record for Highest Freefall

Remember Felix Baumgartner? He's the man who made that epic skydive from the edge of space a few years back, captivating the Internet in the process. At the time, he set a new record for the highest freefall skydive, jumping from a height of 127,852 feet (38,969 meters). Last Friday, October 24, a little over two years after Felix set that amazing record, it was broken with little fan-fare by an exec from Google named Dr. Alan Eustace.

Much like Baumgartner, Eustace used a small capsule, carried aloft by high-altitude balloons, to reach his exit altitude. He lifted off from an abandoned airstrip near Roswell, New Mexico and spent two hours climbing to a height of 135,890 feet (41,419 meters), at which point he stepped out of sealed capsule, and plummeted back to Earth. It took him just 15 minutes to touch back down, as he reached speeds of 822 mph (1322 km/h) on the descent.

Eustace's jump bested Baumgartner's in total height by more than 7000 feet (2133 meters). But perhaps the most remarkable element of the project is that Eustace kept it a secret from just about everyone, and didn't create a media circus around this jump. In fact, it wasn't until after he completed the skydive that news broke of the new record. He even reportedly self-funded the endeavor, even turning down money from Google to complete the project on his own.

The Google exec did work with a company called Paragon Space Development Corp, which designed his specially made space suit, and helped with the logistics of the balloon, and the flight. The high-altitude skydive had been planned for more than three years, which means Eustace started his project after Baumgartner had announced his intentions, but it still took two years to beat Felix's record.

The video below highlights some portions of the jump. While not as flashy as Bumgarner's videos, which were part of a full-on multi-media blitz sponsored by Red Bull, the clips give you a good understanding of what Eustace went through on his ride up, and fall back down. Amazing stuff.

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