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Baumgartner Completes 13.5-Mile Free-Fall Jump, Aims For Record 155

An anonymous reader writes "On Thursday Felix Baumgartner climbed into a capsule carried by a balloon, floated up to 71,500 feet, and jumped out. He free-fell through the atmosphere for almost four minutes, hitting an estimated top speed of 364 mph. 'I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of 50,000ft,' he said. After finally deploying his chute, he fell for a bit over four more minutes, before successfully touching down in the New Mexico Desert. This was a test to prepare him for a jump of 120,000 feet later this summer, during which Baumgartner will break the record for highest free-fall jump — and the sound barrier. '... a 36-pound spacesuit is all that separates Baumgartner from a hostile world that would boil the blood in his body. Baumgartner will wear a chest pack crammed with data-hungry instruments to help ground controllers monitor the attempt — and log scientific data. Some will keep tabs on his heart rate and oxygen intake to see how a body in a spacesuit reacts to a boundary no one has broken (and lived to tell the tale): the speed of sound.'"
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Baumgartner Completes 13.5-Mile Free-Fall Jump, Aims For Record

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  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:07PM (#39391355)
    ... and then he breaks the speed record?
  • Why haven't they published a video of the jump? Just some footage of him at the capsule and that's all.
  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:07PM (#39391359)
    Whether it's a record or his body, something is going to get smashed.
  • Slowing down. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:09PM (#39391361) Homepage

    The braking from supersonic phase is going to be interesting.

    Ordinary parachuting maxes out around 200km/h. Back in the 1960s, the last time a 100,000+ foot jump was tried, someone hit 998km/h. They did not have an easy ride down.

    • Re:Slowing down. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:20PM (#39391429) Homepage Journal

      Dynamic pressure is going to be really high.

      Spins will be a hazard. Skydivers learn to control spins but not at that speed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      His not gonna open the parachute with that speed. I assume he will first slow down to the normal lower-atmosphere, free-fall (belly-to-earth) terminal velocity, ie about 200km/h.

    • by Nimey ( 114278 )

      Bailing out at supersonic speed and surviving is possible. Per Wikipedia:

      "In the early 1960s, deployment of rocket-powered ejection seats designed for use at supersonic speeds began in such planes as the Convair F-106 Delta Dart. Six pilots have ejected at speeds exceeding 700 knots (1,300 km/h; 810 mph). The highest altitude at which a Martin-Baker seat was deployed was 57,000 ft (from a Canberra bomber in 1958). Following an accident on 30 July 1966 in the attempted launch of a D-21 drone, two Lockheed M

    • by FSWKU ( 551325 )
      Except that he won't be going that fast by the time he pulls his parachute. Once he's closer to the ground, the air will be a lot thicker, and his terminal velocity a lot lower. Once it's time to pull the chute, he'll likely be falling at the same rate as your average skydiver. Plus, like Kittinger, I'm assuming there will be a drogue chute deployed much earlier to keep him stable.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I seem to recall that even in vacuum, the elasticity of your skin can supply the vapor pressure of your blood, so I think claims about blood boiling are bunk.

  • ...but it makes sense when one considers how long it's been since we were really going full-tilt at doing this kind of research in the public sector. (Every time I see it, this xkcd [xkcd.com] leaves me a little more depressed about our willingness, as a population, to go to the risks and expenses necessary to accomplish great things).

    Serious kudos to Red Bull for sponsoring this -- it's a happy day when one person's marketing budget is another person's research budget, and I sincerely hope both the PR people and the

    • It's a good stunt, but science? If anybody really wanted the data they'd just drop the suit without the man in it. If there's still any concern about un-identified paramaters necessary to support life (which I doubt) they could always go the monkey/dog route again. (Granted, Kittinger himself says otherwise in the article, but I still don't see it).
      • by cduffy ( 652 )

        Consider that some of the parameters involve things like human strength and control (for spin avoidance, for instance) -- a weighted suit and a suit being controlled by a human with training don't necessarily behave the same.

        The one-man re-entry suit GE built (but never finished testing) back in the day was real research. I don't see why this doesn't qualify similarly.

        Moreover -- just dropping the suit without anyone in it could be what they'd do if they only wanted the data. Being a publicity stunt and bei

  • by Port1080 ( 515567 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:20PM (#39391431) Homepage

    If this works, maybe the people who were designing things like the MOOSE orbital bail-out system weren't as crazy as everyone thought....

    (see: http://www.astronautix.com/craft/moose.htm [astronautix.com] )

    • Orbit is a fair bit higher than this jump. The ISS is 10 times higher than the jump which gives you much more time to build up speed. Whether or not the MOOSE system would really keep the user from burning up on re-entry is still debatable.
      • Not only higher but jumping from ISS you also start at orbital velocity (7.7-7.6 km/s)
      • Speed is limited by terminal velocity of about 200 km/h near the ground, where it matters. The total heat generated from air friction during the jump can't be more than the initial potential energy, but you'd need a profile of the air density to calculate it exactly.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Its not debatable at all. Its a VERY well understood science.

        The ISS is in ORBIT. It is traveling at 17500 MPH. If you enter at that speed, you burn up. If you were not in orbit, and dropped straight down from the height of the ISS, you would not burn up.

        "Orbit" is not higher or lower than anything else up there, its simply a speed at which you fall as fast as you move around the earth. Its an endless fall.

        So, jumping from an actual orbit, you die. Jumping from a balloon or whatever, you do not.

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          The problem with a spacecraft made of heavy metals is that it drops like a rock through the atmosphere, hence it needs a huge amount of shielding due to the reentry speed when it finally hits the lower atmosphere.

          An astronaut with a much more minimal shield doesn't have the same problem due to the lower overall density of the astronaut as composed to a heavy spacecraft, so the altitude where the pressure starts to push back against the astronaut would be much higher, and the astronaut could "skip" across th

    • yeah I saw that one, where Bullwinkle parachutes in to save Rocky J from the headhunters
  • What are the odds he'll end up as a large smear on the ground?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There have been several people going supersonic in the atmosphere, after high speed ejections from military aircraft. Supposedly some even jumped out at Mach 3, though as that was during secret tests I'm not sure the details were ever disclosed officially. This would be the first to accelerate to supersonic speed in free fall, not the first to go supersonic.


    • To be fair, the summary doesn't say he'd be the first, only that he'd break the barrier, and the article is clear on the point that he'll only be the first to break the sound barrier by free fall.
    • I remember someone ejecting from a jet at supersonic speed in an outside loop (I think it was in Louisiana) and surviving in pretty good shape. The details escape memory but I think he got out with his legs intact, which had been predicted as improbable, and survived.
      One of the more memorable ejections in that era was from a Cougar jet disabled in a thunderstorm over Louisiana. He took a very long time to get down and had ribs broken due to the buffeting he received. A REALLY long time to get down due to

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )

        He took a very long time to get down and had ribs broken due to the buffeting he received. A REALLY long time to get down due to the updrafts the thunderstorm!

        It would really suck to be turned into a large "hailstone"...

  • I'm pretty sure Joseph Kittinger broke the sound barrier on his space jump.

    • It took me, literally, 10 seconds to discover that you're entirely wrong.

      he fell for four minutes and 36 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 614 miles per hour (988 km/h)

      the speed of sound ... is 1,236 kilometres per hour (768 mph)

  • Joe Kittinger (Score:3, Informative)

    by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:47PM (#39391607)
    What's really cool is the Col. Joe Kittinger (who has the record of 102,000+ feet since I was 2) is his biggest fan & supporter. Joe did it old school...just throw on a G-suit, space suit, parachute and jump. When he landed, he popped out a lighter & smoked a cigarette LOL. Times have changed. That HQ photo of Baumgartner standing on the edge of the capsule is my unlock screen on my phone. Cool picture. Hope they do one at 120K feet.
  • such an amazing feeling of floating, I only got an idea of how fast I was by going through a cloud, but to do this for four minutes - amazing.

    I'm jealous - and wish him best of luck breaking that record(s)

    • such an amazing feeling of floating [...]

      I dunno. I did a tandem jump from 12,000 feet and that strong wind on the way down definitely discouraged any thoughts of floating or flying. But the scale is so big that you don't really get the feeling of falling, either.

      But I agree--it's very cool.

  • It's the sudden stop.

  • For those who haven't seen it, Boards of Canada (an ambient music group from Scotland) put some footage of Kittiger's famous jump into one of their music videos. It's pretty neat:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lEsLcGB7Vo [youtube.com]

  • The best part will be when he breaks the time barrier and lands in 1956. At that point, a farmer will shoot him then shout "I got myself a Russky. Martha, call the sheriff!"
  • by iliketrash ( 624051 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @07:41PM (#39392273)

    From TFA: "Thirty seconds after leaping, he’ll exceed the speed of sound in the thin upper atmosphere by traveling almost 700 miles per hour."

    The speed of of sound in the upper atmosphere is _not_ 700 miles per hour. That figure relates to the speed of sound at one atmosphere and normal temperatures and also has to consider partial pressures including water vapor. In the upper atmosphere, the speed of sound is much less.

    Claims similar to this over the years that the space shuttle is traveling at Mach 25 are just as ill-informed, since the "mach" number is supposed to be based on local conditions, not at some hypothetical place on a beach (one atmosphere, nice temperatures). It is wrong to simply divide some velocity by the speed of sound at sea level and then apply it to conditions present at the object's location.

  • a starship troopers joke in this somewhere, but i am too lazy to think of it.
  • Typical skydives are from 13K. If you go a little more than double like from 30K, you have to wear full O2 mask (not the cheapie like what falls from ceiling on airliners), and have to prebreath 100% O2 on ground before departure (highly recommended to prevent nitrogen bends). Then if you want to double that to 60K, you need a pressure suit. Though Armstrong line is 63K but probably not much difference to your body of 3000 feet.

    So 30K which many been on airliner flights (and a few that have jumped from th

  • Concept illustrated from 1959 book, Manâ(TM)s Reach Into Space However. It would lend a *whole* new meaning to the phrase "Smoke'n it down...." http://mfwright.com/spacebailout.html [mfwright.com]

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin