Felix Baumgartner is braver than you are. In light of his latest stunt, it’s probably safe to say that he’s also probably crazier. The Austrian daredevil will ride in a spaceship of sorts (sponsored by Red Bull) that’s attached to a helium balloon 120,000 feet up up into the Earth’s stratosphere, where he will open the door, step out and — oh yes — fall. Then things get interesting.
If all goes according to plan, Baumgartner will break the record for the world’s highest skydive and become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. Because the air is so thin in the stratosphere, he’ll accelerate from 0 to 690 miles-per-hour in just 34-seconds. The former record holder, Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, jumped from 102,900 feet over 52 years ago, but only managed to reach 614 miles-per-hour. Kittinger, now 84, will be along for this ride, too. He helped Baumgartner train for the jump and will stay in radio contact with the daredevil during his two-hour-long ascent. It’s much quicker on the way down. Baumgartner’s free fall will last five and a half minutes before he pulls his chute about 5,000 feet from the ground. It’ll take him another 15 minutes before he lands in the desert outside of Roswell, New Mexico.
Obviously, this is really dangerous. Baumgartner will be wearing a 260-pound pressurized suit (covered in Red Bull logos) that more or less looks like what astronauts wear when the go on space walks. If anything goes wrong with the suit, death is almost certain, and it would certainly be a gruesome death. Baumgartner’s blood would boil, and his lungs would pop. If he starts spinning on the way down, he’ll quickly lose control and more or less get torn apart. This is why the livestream, which will rely on over 30 cameras, isn’t live: there’s a 20 second delay in case of a tragic accident.
There’s no question that he’s physically ready, even though his medical director, Dr. Jonathan Clark, says that no one knows what happens to a body when it breaks the sound barrier (Dr. Clark lost his wife, Laurel, in the 2003 Columbia accident.) To mentally prepare, Baumgartner spent Monday at his hotel, relaxing with his parents, girlfriend and four close friends, his team said. He had a light dinner of salmon and a salad, then had a massage. He spent Tuesday morning resting in an Airstream trailer near the launch site, and before suiting up, drank a smoothie. A smoothie not sponsored by Red Bull, because, well, getting manically overcaffinated is probably not the best thing to do before jumping from space.
“I know the consequences if something goes wrong,” Baumgartner said over the weekend. “And it crosses my mind — what if I’m never going to see my family again? But I have learned how to control my fear so that it doesn’t get in the way.” Sponsored by Red Bull.