Sunday, October 14, 2012

Daredevil Felix Baumgartner hits Mach 1.24 during record skydive

After having to abort an earlier scheduled attempt due to adverse weather conditions, daredevil Felix Baumgartner, 43, on Sunday became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound, reaching a top speed of 833.9 MPH(mach 1.24). He also set a record for the highest skydive, bailing out at 128,100 feet (24.2 miles) above New Mexico.

Both of those records will need to be validated by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI). GPS data recorded on a microcard in Baumgartner's chest pack will be used to confirm the Austrian's altitude and speed claims.

Brian Utley of the FAI said the final figures might differ slightly from the initial estimate, and that a thorough analysis of the data will take several weeks. However, he indicated that there was no doubt Baumgartner eclipsed the speed of sound.

Utley added that the free fall in Baumgartner's jump went on for for 119,846 feet, another record. However, the length of time of the free fall, 4 minutes and 20 seconds, was 16 seconds short of the record, set by Joe Kittinger, 84, the retired Air Force colonel who in 1960 skydived from 102,800 feet and reached a speed of 614 MPH, the prior records.

Kittinger has been an integral part of Baumgartner's team for some. In addition to providing the daredevil with advice and encouragement, he acted as his radio link in mission control at Roswell airport.

During the ascent, Kittinger helped Baumgartner keep busy, running through a 40-item checklist of every move that Baumgartner would need to make once it came time to leave the capsule.

In a post-jump press conference, Baumgartner said that once he got as high as he did, he thought only about one thing, and it wasn't setting records:

"Trust me, when you stand up there on top of the world, you become so humble. It’s not about breaking records anymore. It’s not about getting scientific data. It’s all about coming home.”

Despite his daredevil status, Baumgartner had to struggle with his fears to perform this feat. He suffered panic attacks after tests where he spent hours inside his pressurized suit and helmet. He was forced to learn techniques for dealing with claustrophobia before he could make the jump.

Baumgartner set another record of sorts. YouTube's live stream of the event saw more than 8 million viewers just before Baumgartner took the plunge. The previous record for a single Web video service was about 500,000 concurrent streams, which YouTube served during the Olympics this summer.

No comments: