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The Feat of a Fall

Felix Baumgartner jumps from space

Felix Baumgartner jumps from space

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner defied natural human ability and experience Sunday afternoon by jumping from space above Earth to free fall all the way back to ground. The incredible stunt to attempt to break a skydiving record took place early Sunday afternoon. Baumgartner took off in a helium balloon and flew close to 25 miles above Earth into the Stratosphere then jumped out. During the fall, he reached speeds of over 800 miles per hour breaking the sound barrier before deploying his parachute and falling back down to Earth. Baumgartner actually broke several records in the process and would go on to catch the attention of the world as thousands of people were able to watch it unfold on live TV.  The extreme nature of the act which now has the world buzzing is being heralded as one of the most dangerous exploits ever attempted and an experience that now only one person can say they have had. In which case now he is the only one who can answer the question. Was it worth it?

Felix Baumgartner teamed up with Red Bull to put together the project. The mission had Baumgartner in a small capsule attached to the balloon which left an airport in Roswell, New Mexico at approximately 9:30 a.m. It would take over two hours to arrive at the final destination of 24 miles up and after a few last-minute checks, he was ready to go. Baumgartner stood at the edge of the capsule looking down at the Earth and said, “I know the whole world is watching now. I wish you could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to be up really high to understand how small you are. I’m coming home now.” He saluted and jumped. After 42 seconds of falling he reached his max speed of 834 mph, or Mach 1, easily going faster than the speed of sound. Close to another three and a half minutes later the opened his parachute and after another five minutes he finally made it back to Earth. Baumgartner fell short of his effort  to become the longest free faller, but he was able to break records for highest manned balloon flight (at 24.261 miles), highest skydive (119,846 ft), and he became the first human to break the sound barrier without vehicular assistance (834.4 mph/Mach 1.24).

Felix Baumgartner

Felix Baumgartner

We’ve seen so-called “adrenaline junkies” do some amazing things. They climb the highest of mountains, jump from perfectly good airplanes and fall from heights with just a cord attached to them. All of which provides some level of extraordinary danger so that a person could get a “rush”. Rush, being what you get from the chemical produced by the human body commonly known as adrenaline. Because of the danger, fear, or anxiety produced by the act, practitioners present themselves with the fight or flight option that could rival some narcotics. Felix Baumgartner has been doing this essentially his whole adult life. Skydiving and BASE jumping at various places around the world. But this last escapade was his most thrilling of all of his thrill seeking adventures. Anyone would have to admit, traveling faster than the speed of sound is pretty cool.

Not for nothin’ but I’m sure it was very worth. Well at least it had to been for him. It was worth it for scientist who were gathering data for a new generation of pressurized suits. It was worth it for Red Bull for the exposure to the company. Everyone watching had to be glued to watch Baumgartner fall for over 20 miles. But many of us are left scratching our heads, mainly asking the question, would you do it? Part of the whole thrill-seeking culture I have yet to understand. People climb a mountain because it’s there, you can’t move it so go around it. Sometimes planes go down and you’d have to jump from them before they crash. But Felix Baumgartner dedicated years and considerable resources for literally 15 minutes of fame? Don’t know how profitable it was for him, but perhaps the sole purpose was to benefit from the high.

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