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Skydiver Leaps From 18 Miles Up In 'Space Jump' Practice 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-the-first-step dept.
wooferhound writes "A daredevil leapt from a balloon more than 18 miles above the Earth today, moving one step closer to a so-called 'space jump' that would set the record for the world's highest skydive. Austrian adventurer Felix Baumgartner stepped out of his custom-built capsule at an altitude of 96,640 feet (29,456 meters) above southeastern New Mexico, officials with Red Bull Stratos — the name of Baumgartner's mission — announced today. In today's jump, Baumgartner experienced freefall for three minutes and 48 seconds, reaching a top speed of 536 mph (863 kph), project officials said. Baumgartner then opened his parachute and glided to Earth safely about 10 minutes and 30 seconds after stepping into the void."
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Skydiver Leaps From 18 Miles Up In 'Space Jump' Practice

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  • First words (Score:5, Funny)

    by EricScott (612681) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:15PM (#40772415) Homepage Journal
    That's one small step for a man, One giant leap for me.
    • New Extreme Sport (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sanman2 (928866) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:44PM (#40772615)

      If you could run this as a business operation, I wonder how much you could charge people for "space jumps"?

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        Call me when we get the screw attack.

      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:10AM (#40773777) Homepage Journal

        I wonder how much you could charge people for "space jumps"?

        I'm not sure what the price level would be, but I can tell you that I have pretty much no interest in jumping out of an airplane, but I would do it multiple times if it were required to train for this kind of jump.

        I'm pretty sure I could be 117, dying on a bed and, remembering my space jump, say, "fuck yeah" and die happy.

      • Re:New Extreme Sport (Score:5, Informative)

        by Paezley (235267) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @12:48PM (#40779041)

        If you could run this as a business operation, I wonder how much you could charge people for "space jumps"?

        I am a licensed skydiver, and I can tell you that the way "normal" jumps are priced is there is a boarding fee generally $10-13 USD and then you pay $1 per thousand feet of altitude. This is whether you get out at 3,000 feet or 13,000 feet. But this is out of an aircraft without needing supplemental oxygen or equipment.

        Specialized jumps cost more:

        Hot air balloon jumps are usually around $45 and you get out anywhere between 4-6k feet.

        Anything above 15,000 feet requires supplemental oxygen, so these jumps can be more expensive.

        A civilian HALO jump from 30,000 feet costs around $375.

        However none of that applies in this case because of all the specialized equipment for the stratos mission.

        For example, the bottom of the capsule is one-use-only. Upon landing, the capsule's bottom absorbs the force of impact and "crumples", so every flight requires a replacement. There is a pressure suit which needs to fit the jumper. There is a custom parachute rig made by Velocity.

        Also, the time to altitude takes a very long time, and the winds need to be just right. So it is not uncommon for them to wait days or weeks to have a window to try. They also have a large ground team. So this whole production would need to spin up for each "jumper" meaning at best you could do one or two jumpers every few weeks, at worst, one every month or two.

        Not to mention each jumper would need to have a base line skydiving skill set that exceeds what most sport jumpers possess. Figure you would need to have several thousands normal skydives, including HALO jumps, before you could even begin to train for a stratos jump. Training for stratos jump would include many jumps wearing the space suit and custom velocity rig, which is not a standard rig so it has different deployment and emergency procedures. This training would need to include wind tunnel time to work on falling in a stable belly to earth orientation. It would also need to include jumps from an aircraft.

        As a business operation you would likely need to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per jumper, if not millions, and only allow "customers" who meet the qualifications.

        So really, you'd have to invest several years in skydiving and have a scrooge mcduck money pond waiting for you at the end of it.

        OR, you use the red bull money from all the idiots who drink red bull and you have an awesome adventure on their dime ;)

        USPA C-39657

    • Astronauts returning home from ISS could just jump, all that's needed is a parachute.

  • Pretty Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jomama717 (779243) <jomama717@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:16PM (#40772425) Journal
    Makes me wish I'd been alive to watch live coverage of people LANDING ON THE FREAKING MOON.
    • by digitig (1056110)
      Meh. The picture wasn't all that clear. The Pink Floyd improvisation that we got as soundtrack here in the UK was pretty cool, though.
    • by SlashDev (627697)
      I think you would be disappointed, the broadcast video would arrive in HD, perfect colors, video and sound, would look too much like a sci-fi film, people would believe this landing even less.
  • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:17PM (#40772431) Journal

    From the article:

    Red Bull Stratos is a mission to the edge of space to an altitude of 37.000 meters to break several records including the sound of speed in freefall

  • by pegasustonans (589396) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:20PM (#40772457)

    While these things are somewhat debatable, Baumgartner's future "space jump" is not due to take place in what most consider "space."

    FTFA:

    Baumgartner has his eyes on an even bigger leap, a "space jump" from 125,000 feet (38,100 m) in the next month or so. (Space, however, is generally considered to begin at an altitude of 62 miles, or 327,000 feet.)

    It's still a great feat and laudable they went ahead with it despite ridiculous legal challenges:

    Baumgartner and his team had hoped to attempt his record jump in 2010, but they were delayed by a legal challenge that claimed the idea of the dive was earlier suggested to Red Bull by California promoter Daniel Hogan.

  • Fastest Human? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Did he also attain distinction of being fastest non-propelled human?

    • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:57PM (#40772725) Homepage Journal

      Did he also attain distinction of being fastest non-propelled human?

      No, I'm pretty sure that record was set by the Apollo 10 re-entry, at close to 40,000 km/h (almost 25,000 mph).

      He's not even the fastest skydiver - that record has held for 52 years now - Joseph Kittinger did a free fall in 1960 that lasted 21% longer and reached a top speed 15% faster than what Baumgartner just did.

  • air resistance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:22PM (#40772471)

    Air resistance up to typical skydiving altitude provides sufficient drag to keep the person from accelerating to the point where deceleration would result in so much friction as to vaporize the person. If this guy's really dead-set on jumping from the actual threshold of space...

    1. He'll need thermal insulation until he's in the earth atmosphere properly. I hear it's pretty cold up there.

    2. I think it's safe to assume he has the oxygen problem licked, because at 12 miles, he'd have suffocated.

    3. I understand objects falling from that altitude tend to encounter very little air resistance, which means they pick up a lot of speed. The kind of speed that causes brilliant fireballs to appear in place of anything falling from that height, like asteroids, satellites, and space shuttles.

    ... I don't see how anyone could survive those kinds of physical stresses while maintaining any level of mobility, or having a silhouette even vaguely resembling a person. The low mass of a person (even one encased in inches-thick ceramic heat shielding, would mean the bow wave shocks would turn anyone inside into goo. Perhaps someone with a better understanding of physics clear up for me why this isn't the case, since I'm pretty sure Red Bull doesn't want their energy drink to be associated with what in my eyes is essentially suicide by thermodynamics?

    • by Telvin_3d (855514)

      The air pressure increases gradually on the way down. Perhaps terminal velocity goes down gradually enough to provide a smooth transition. After all, the objects that typically end up as fireballs entered with quite a bit of extra velocity to start with.

      • You are right but also, with thin air you get less heat transfer for cooling, so it is not as simply as that.

    • Re:air resistance (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:38PM (#40772579)

      If you have very little air resistance, you're not going to be generating any heat (you get hot from the friction caused by the air resistance).

      Asteroids, satellites, and space shuttles don't just fall out of the sky, they were already moving fast enough to stay in orbit. Their massive speed helps make them hot. The jumper will not be traveling at orbital speeds, thus the increasing air resistance will be enough to slow him down before the speed+air friction gets high enough to burn him.

      • Re:air resistance (Score:5, Interesting)

        by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @11:01PM (#40772749) Journal
        Actually, you don't get hot from the friction; you get hot from compressing the air in front of you.
        • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @11:32PM (#40772933)

          Actually, you don't get hot from the friction; you get hot from compressing the air in front of you.

          Kind of like this: Relativistic Baseball [xkcd.com]

          Q: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
          A: The answer turns out to be “a lot of things”, and they all happen very quickly, and it doesn’t end well for the batter (or the pitcher).
          ... [ more w/illustrations ]

        • by SlashDev (627697)
          So when you rub your hands together, it's air compression that is causing heat?
        • Yeah, now that you mention it, I remember reading the leading theory on the Tunguska meteor/comet is that it exploded 5 or 10 miles above the earth because of the heat from the air compressed in front of it.
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        For a geostationary satellite, ground velocity is zero. So roughly the same as the speed of the balloon this person jumped from (not taking wind speeds into account). Jumping off a geostationary would involve pushing oneself down towards earth, slowly picking up vertical speed (now I have heard before that it doesn't work exactly like that but I'm not a rocket scientist and it's not important for the sake of the argument). And you would also start to pick up horizontal speed compared to the Earth's surface

        • by metacell (523607)

          Jumping off a geostationary would involve pushing oneself down towards earth, slowly picking up vertical speed (now I have heard before that it doesn't work exactly like that but I'm not a rocket scientist and it's not important for the sake of the argument).

          If we discount friction (wind resistance), this is not enough to reach the surface of the Earth. The momentum gained when pushing down from the space station, will only move the jumper very slowly towards the Earth, and once he has orbited half a revolution and is on the other side of the Earth, the same momentum will take him *away* from Earth again. The net effect is that the orbit will become slighty elliptical.

          I doubt he will reach the surface in a reasonable amount of time even if we take friction into

        • If you were to jump from geostationary orbit you would need to jump towards the "rear" of the craft (ie the trailing edge) with nearly as much force as it takes to get you from the edge of the atmosphere to geostationary orbit, i.e. a LOT. You'd hit the atmosphere at a hell of a speed and burn up without some pretty funky thermal shielding. If you simply "jumped toward the Earth" then all you'll do is put yourself in a slightly more eccentric orbit. Geostationary orbits are only geostationary because the
      • by tgd (2822)

        I thought the same thing, and was going to post that, until I did a bit of math on it.

        From the altitude of space, in a vacuum at 1G you'll be going almost 3000mph when you hit the ground. If you assume the bulk of the atmosphere capable of slowing you down significantly starts, say, around 20 miles up, you'll still be going 2500mph as you hit that meatier part of the air.

        I can't say if that's something survivable or not, but 2500mph is fast enough at 20 miles up that an SR71 needed to be made of titanium to

    • Re:air resistance (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tragedy (27079) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:46PM (#40772639)

      Asteroids, Satellites, and space shuttles don't just "fall" from that height. They're already going very, very fast (at least 25,000 km/h) before they hit the atmosphere. There's no way this guy would ever manage to go that fast even if he were dropping from the height of LEO (to be clear, I just mean dropping from the height of, not actually being in LEO). For an idea of what kind of heating he could experience, the Concorde apparently got up to around 120 degrees celcius at its nose travelling at Mach 2. That's clearly too hot for bare skin, but it's not much of a problem for an insulated pressure suit for just a few minutes (and it probably wouldn't even be that long), and his goal of Mach 1 will be pretty hard to reach, let alone Mach 2.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        For an idea of what kind of heating he could experience, the Concorde apparently got up to around 120 degrees celcius at its nose travelling at Mach 2.

        Concorde's crusing altitude was about 55,000 feet, or 17,000 meters. This guy stepped out at almost twice that altitude, with zero velocity.

        • by tragedy (27079)

          Concorde's crusing altitude was about 55,000 feet, or 17,000 meters. This guy stepped out at almost twice that altitude, with zero velocity.

          And reached a maximum speed of Mach .75. That wouldn't even generate enough heat to burn bare skin (although obviously you couldn't safely expose bare skin to those conditions). The point is that there's no way he's going to turn into a "brilliant fireball" as the GGP post suggested. A little insulation, which is needed for the cold anyway, and the heat is not a problem. The Concorde example was just to demonstrate a high upper limit on what could possibly be expected for his jump.

          • by jamstar7 (694492)
            Yeah, if he strapped rockets to his ass and went for a power dive instead of a freefall.
            • by tragedy (27079)

              Um, huh? On reading your above post, then reading your previous reply to me, I've realized that you seem to be under some sort of misapprehension about what I'm saying. Perhaps you think I'm the poster I originally replied to? What _I_ am saying, is that the concerns girlintraining listed: cold, low oxygen, and heating due to atmospheric resistance are more or less a non-issue with basic protective gear (an insulated pressure suit). I gave the Concorde as an example of something that heated up to temperatur

    • Re:air resistance (Score:5, Informative)

      by PPH (736903) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:50PM (#40772669)

      3. I understand objects falling from that altitude tend to encounter very little air resistance, which means they pick up a lot of speed. The kind of speed that causes brilliant fireballs to appear in place of anything falling from that height, like asteroids, satellites, and space shuttles.

      Not really. Most things that cause brilliant fireballs have a very high initial velocity (and kinetic energy) which must be dissipated when they first reach the atmosphere. This skydiver started with a vertical velocity of zero.

      And since the density gradient of the atmosphere is low, a skydiver's air resistance will build up slowly bleeding off this energy gradually.

      All that must be done is to bleed off the skydiver's potential energy. For a 115kg (person + gear. I'm pulling figures out of my *ss here) at 29,500m altitude, this is aprox. 32,700 Joules. Dissipated in 630 seconds, this is an average rate of 51 Watts. Warm, but not out of line with being wrapped in an electric blanket.

      That same individual hitting the atmosphere at 7750 m/sec (Shuttle re-entry velocity) would have kinetic energy of 3.45E9 Joules. Over 630 seconds this would be 5.5 megawatts, although the 630 second figure does not represent the re-entry time anymore. That time would be less, giving a higher average dissipation rate. And nothing but a few ashes reaching the ground.

      • by tgd (2822)

        Dissipated in 630 seconds, this is an average rate of 51 Watts. Warm, but not out of line with being wrapped in an electric blanket.

        Why in the world would you think the average rate is even remotely relavent? Peak rate, while not exclusively so, is the primary factor for survivability.

        If I have a stick of dynamite with a timer on it, and set it for 23:59 hours, the average energy of the next 24 hours is not going to be my primary concern tomorrow morning.

    • by Megane (129182)
      FWIW, the reason re-entry from orbit produces so much heat is that you have to get rid of the horizontal orbital velocity. You could probably retro rocket thrust to get rid of the orbital velocity if you took up enough fuel, but that would be a luxury for anything launched from Earth into orbit on a rocket. This guy is going up in a balloon, so there is no horizontal velocity involved beyond Earth's rotation.
    • by Dyinobal (1427207)
      Nasa successfully tested, an inflatable heat shield not to long ago, I imagine something like that could be used.
    • 1. He'll need thermal insulation *after* he gets into reasonably dense atmosphere, not before. The reason is that the loss of heat by radiation (the only mechanism in vacuum) is comparatively slow. Fast air flow, even one of rarefied air, facilitates a much faster heat removal process.

      3. The heat given off by a subsonic object can hardly be likened to a falling meteor.

    • Recommended reading: Poul Anderson's Wings of Victory [baenebooks.com].

    • The fireballs are caused by objects hitting the atmosphere at high speed, mach 20 and upwards. Baumgartner will start from zero vertical velocity and hitting mach 1 is a challenge, the thermal effects are minimal compared to orbital velocities.
  • Fail (Score:4, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:27PM (#40772509)

    The secret of flying is to throw oneself at the ground - and miss.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:27PM (#40772517)

    Upon landing Mr. Baumgartner simply requested a cigar and fresh undies.

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:51PM (#40772677)
    Committees from both the Darwin Awards and Guinness will be on hand for the final jump. The Guinness people are hoping for multiple awards at the jump. Highest jump, longest free fall, highest velocity in free fall, longest scream in free fall, highest speed a human ever impacted the ground and greatest distance human remains were spread after impact.
    • longest scream in free fall

      Clearly this is why he's not actually going into space.

      In Space No-One Can hear You Scream.

      Although, to be really picky, his scream will be really short. Given that he'll be wearing a fully-enclosed helmet I'd guestimate something approximating a couple of inches.

  • by jaa101 (627731) <James.Ashton@ashtons.id.au> on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @11:11PM (#40772793)

    Freefall strictly speaking means 9.8m/s/s which, after 228 seconds, multiplies out to 5000mph. That's an order of magnitude more than Baumgartner's speed. Wikipedia explains:

    "The example of a falling skydiver who has not yet deployed a parachute is not considered free fall from a physics perspective, since they experience a drag force which equals their weight once they have achieved terminal velocity (see below). However, the term "free fall skydiving" is commonly used to describe this case in everyday speech, and in the skydiving community."

    Still, terminal velocity for a human at sea level is about 120mph which is 4.5 times slower than the quoted 536mph. Taking the square root gives an atmospheric pressure 2.1 times less than normal which translates to him popping the 'chute at about 25,000. Actually he had a pressure suit which would probably slow him down so it could have been higher than that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @11:47PM (#40773029)

    On Aug. 16, 1960, US military Col. Kittinger stepped from a balloon-supported gondola at the altitude of 102,800 feet to test the use of a parachute for escape from a space capsule or high-altitude aircraft. In free-fall for 4.5 minutes at speeds up to 614 mph and temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit, Col. Kittinger opened his parachute at 18,000 feet.

    The jump set records that still stand today: the highest ascent in a balloon, the highest parachute jump, the longest free-fall, and the fastest speed by a man through the atmosphere.

    Video of the story [youtube.com]

    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      One of the 2 favourite things I have about that jump (if I recall, and no I didn't re-watch the video was)

      1. he had a hole in his glove but didn't tell anyone because he really wanted to jump and I think it was the last chance or some such.

      2. when he lands and the rescue team come to grab him - in one of the videos, his buddy walks up to him says something (there's a voice over) and he flips his pal the bird with a big smile.

      What a badass.

  • On Aug. 16, 1960, US military Col. Kittinger stepped from a balloon-supported gondola at the altitude of 102,800 feet to test the use of a parachute for escape from a space capsule or high-altitude aircraft. In free-fall for 4.5 minutes at speeds up to 614 mph and temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit, Col. Kittinger opened his parachute at 18,000 feet.

    The jump set records that still stand today: the highest ascent in a balloon, the highest parachute jump, the longest free-fall, and the fastest spee

  • Free fall for more than 3 minutes, and reaching a speed of over 800 kilometers per hour that way must be an awesome experience!

    I'm wondering one thing though: If you open a parachute while going down at that speed, how does that work? It must be a rather strong parachute. How fast do you decelerate?

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      As the atmosphere increased, it would work as a natural break and slow the descent. Eventually you'd be going slow enough (120mph or so) to fall within a parachute's normal operating parameters.
  • 10 minutes is fast. Did he have to wait extra time to decompress? Or was his suit at ground level pressure from before launch from the ground?

  • Humans will always find new an innovating ways to die. Looking forward to the pending "Destroyed in Seconds" episode on Discovery Channel.

  • it seems to me that this jump represented almost identical risks without the reward of breaking the record or the sound barrier. Why not just go the extra 13,000 feet and have the record for all your trouble and risk?
    • Having made more than a few parachute jumps myself, the question of "why" is one I hear often. The best answer I've heard was the one given by one Charles Lindberg [wikipedia.org] on the subject, reprinted below:

      "... when I decided that I too must pass through the
      experience of a parachute jump, life rose to a higher level, to a sort of
      exhilarated calmness. The thought of crawling out onto the struts and wires
      hundreds of feet above the earth, and then giving up even that tenuous hold
      of safety and of substance, left me a fe

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