Sometime soon, possibly today, Felix Baumgartner will put on a space suit, climb into a capsule tethered to a high altitude balloon, ride to the edge of space and then jump out, falling 23 miles back to Earth.
He’ll cover almost the same distance as yesterday’s participants in the Twin Cities Marathon, but in just a few minutes rather than 3 hours, powered by gravity. But it’s not just a whimsical daredevil stunt – the project is intended to gather useful data to make high altitude bailouts possible for pilots and even astronauts.
If successful, Baumgartner will break the record for plummeting, now held by Joe Kittenger, who dropped from 19 miles up when he was in the Navy, almost exceeding the speed of sound in the process.
Baumgartner plans to go the rest of the way to Mach 1, and has been planning the attempt and training for years.
Lots of things can go wrong at high altitude and excessive speeds, especially when a human body is traveling faster than any body has before, outside the confines of a machine. One group of experts suppose that Baumgartner might not notice when he breaks the speed of sound. Others have worried that one part of his space suit could hit Mach 1 while other sections are going slower, setting up potentially destructive vibrations.
Apparently the only way to find out what happens is for Felix Baumgartner to leap out of his capsule and let gravity do its thing.
When have you taken a memorable fall?