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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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  • 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.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:23PM (#39391455)

    I'd like to point out that your blood doesn't boil in a low pressure environment, even if that's a vacuum. As it's contained by your skin and tissues that are rather noncompliant tissue and thus maintain a certain level of internal pressure.

    However, the starling forces are severely disrupted, resulting in oedema of any exposed tissue, this however can be compensated for by using skin tight clothing. NASA did in fact once research a wet-suit like space suit that wouldn't be pressure sealed, concept was good, however, if the suit is kinked and the pressure is relieved you get oedema, and this is hard to prevent in regions such as around joints and crotch.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:26PM (#39391479)

    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.

  • Re:Slowing down. (Score:5, Informative)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Saturday March 17, 2012 @05:46PM (#39391601) Homepage Journal

      Kittinger did several flights of this sort. Manhigh I and Excelsior I, II, III. There may have been others. I'm not that well versed on old USAF projects.

      As I recall from interviews I've read regarding the 1st flight, Kittinger was flying blind for a good bit of the ascent. His visor frosted over, so he couldn't see anything, including his altimeter. On the 3rd flight, his right glove leaked, causing his hand to swell. There was no permanent injury from that though.

        While not mentioned in the summary, it's in the story that Kittinger is consulting on Baumgartner's jumps. He's also been planning it for a while. Here's a 2010 story on it. []

        As far as I know, there were no failed attempts of this sort. Well, not that resulted in the person not surviving, despite the blurb at the end of the summary. Well, it fails twice in that Kettinger did break the speed of sound.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Slowing down. (Score:5, Informative)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @10:21PM (#39392927)
    Here is what NASA says []:

    theory predicts -- and animal experiments confirm -- that otherwise, exposure to vacuum causes no immediate injury. You do not explode. Your blood does not boil. You do not freeze. You do not instantly lose consciousness. Various minor problems (sunburn, possibly "the bends", certainly some [mild, reversible, painless] swelling of skin and underlying tissue) start after ten seconds or so. At some point you lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. Injuries accumulate. After perhaps one or two minutes, you're dying. The limits are not really known.

    You do not explode and your blood does not boil because of the containing effect of your skin and circulatory system. You do not instantly freeze because, although the space environment is typically very cold, heat does not transfer away from a body quickly. Loss of consciousness occurs only after the body has depleted the supply of oxygen in the blood.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2012 @10:36PM (#39392995)

    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.

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Informative)

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Sunday March 18, 2012 @01:01AM (#39393543) Homepage Journal

    You are likely talking about a documentary regarding Joseph Kittinger [], the guy who currently holds the high altitude jump record and set that record in 1960. The reason why it hasn't been tried again is in part due to the fact that such jumps have been perceived as being extremely dangerous. Project Excelsior [], on the third jump by Col. Kittinger, finally did reach an ultimate velocity of 614 mph, or about nine-tenths of the speed of sound. Basically going the speed of many commercial jetliners if you want a comparison.

    Part of the current effort for extreme altitude sky dives is in part to suggest an alternative re-entry method for astronauts that might be able to simply parachute to the Earth from LEO using a small thruster pack and perhaps a surfboard sized reentry shield. On top of that, it is one of the few major international aviation records that might be possible for somebody with private funding to break instead of a major military organization.

    No, there hasn't been somebody who broke Mach 1 (aka the speed of sound) due to free fall. The extreme altitude being attempted by Baumgartner is going to get to that velocity though, in part because the air is so thin at that altitude that it won't offer much resistance until he gets much lower.

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

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Sunday March 18, 2012 @01:18AM (#39393605) Homepage Journal

    The dangerous part is if you start to spin, there isn't much you can do to stop it from happening.... drogue or not. This is because of the extreme altitude as there isn't much air to interact with at all.

    Kittinger's first Excelsior test at "merely" 76,000 feet nearly cost him his life when he went into a flat spin eventually rotating at 120 rpm before he finally got it under control after passing out due to the fact that his main chute automatically deployed and broke the spin. This problem also happens to high altitude aircraft, but they usually have some kind of rudimentary control surface to work with and some high altitude aircraft even have "thrusters" to help with aircraft orientation if it becomes a problem... at least being able to partially control the jet exhaust in some manner.

    When you get to a lower altitude, the drogue chute is much more useful and can be used.... but you need to get to that altitude where it can be useful in the first place. This is called extreme skydiving for a good reason.

  • Orbit Lot Harder (Score:4, Informative)

    by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @10:14AM (#39395211) Journal

    Part of the current effort for extreme altitude sky dives is in part to suggest an alternative re-entry method for astronauts that might be able to simply parachute to the Earth from LEO

    Re-entry from orbit is a LOT harder - the lateral speed needed for LEO is ~7 km/s or about 21 times the speed of sound (at sea level). I suppose this is a start but from orbit you'll have ~400 times more KE to dissipate somehow which will not be trivial.

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