ROSWELL, New Mexico — A freefall from the very edge of space. It’s one man’s dream. Forty-one-year Austrian adventurer Felix Baumgartner is planning to break the record freefall that was set in 1960 by Army Col. Joe Kittinger.
On August 16, 1960, Kittinger floated to 102,800 feet, approximately 20 miles above the earth and well into the stratosphere. He stepped onto the edge of his “space” balloon in a pressurized suit and surveyed the earth.
“The spectacle was breathtaking,” he’s quoted as saying. “I can’t really describe the feeling I had hanging there in that tiny gondola and seeing this magnificent planet set against the utter backdrop of outer space. I suddenly had a powerful and unfamiliar sense of my own remoteness from everything I cherished in life.”
And then he jumped.
In the stratosphere there is no wind, no sensation of speed. But as he plummeted to earth, Kittinger approached the speed of sound. His freefall lasted over four minutes. His total descent took 13 minutes and 45 seconds. His jump broke four records at once including highest manned balloon flight, highest parachute jump, highest freefall and longest freefall — records Austrian adventurer Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull Stratos now want to break.
In Baumgartner’s attempt, he hopes to jump from a balloon at 120,000 feet above the earth. If successful, Baumgartner will be the first person to surpass the speed of sound without a machine.
Red Bull Stratos released a video promoting their attempt. It features the legendary Joe Kittinger, who in it said he’s received phone calls every month for the last 48 years from people interested in breaking his record.
“Most of them had no idea of the challenge, and I was never interested in them,” he said, “so I stayed away from them constantly until I was very seriously interested when I was approached by Red Bull Stratos.”
Baumgartner and Red Bull said they don’t want to merely break records. They want to help in the advancement of medical science.
“This mission is all about pioneer work,” Baumgartner is quoted saying on Red Bull’s website. “Maybe one day people will look back and say it was Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team that helped to develop the suit that they’re wearing in space. We want to do something for posterity.”
Baumgartner and Red Bull’s mission will take place in Roswell, New Mexico in 2012.