Sunday, February 5, 2012

Space Jumping Anyone?

Felix Baumgartner has found his next big challenge. Already the holder of multiple records for skydiving and base jumping, he is currently planning a jump that will set even more. The plan this time is to jump from a balloon at 120,000 ft, in August. If successful it would gain him four more records: the highest altitude free fall, the highest manned balloon flight, the longest distance traveled in free fall and the speed record for the fastest free fall; and he will also break the sound barrier during his fall to the earth. He also hopes that his jump will prove real scientific information and help open up space tourism and new extreme sports, like space jumping.

He will make his way up in an adapted weather balloon. The 400 ft wide scientific balloon will carry a pressurized capsule, with him in it. At 120,000 ft up 23 miles up, he will have to endure temperatures as low as -94 F as well as lack of oxygen and an air pressure that would make his blood boil. To protect him from these difficulties, a suit has been specially designed. The custom suit is also pressurized in a very similar way to the ones NASA astronauts use and carries a supply of 20 minutes of oxygen. His helmet was also specially designed to try and keep him from blacking out when he causes a sonic boom passing through the sound barrier. Due to the difficulties of reaching his parachute's cords whilst in the suit, it also had to be adapted to make the jump possible.

Once he jumps out of the capsule, and away from the balloon, it should take him ten minutes to reach the ground. Thirty-five seconds later he'll break the sound barrier. He'll be traveling close to 700 miles an hour, for the first five minutes, until he reaches 5,000 ft and opens his chute. Five minutes later he hopes to have reached the ground safely, hoping to land in a specific area of New Mexico, but even a slight breeze could cause him to drift 150 miles.

During his jumping blacking will be his worst fear, it would very easily prove deadly. Breaking the sound barrier, the sheer force of the fall, or going into a spin could cause it to happen. Baumgartner stated during an interview that, "I always feel the danger because you might always be subject to an unexpected or emergency event. One single mistake might cause a real catastrophe. You are worried about being where humans shouldn't be."