Text by Alyson Sheppard
Felix Baumgartner has already set free-falling records in this
atmosphere—highest B.A.S.E. jump from a building, lowest B.A.S.E.
jump—so now he’s taking his parachutes into the stratosphere. Later
this year, the 41-year-old Austrian will ride in a pressurized capsule
attached to a helium balloon 120,000 feet above the Earth. And then
he’ll jump out. Baumgartner is expected to reach speeds of up to 740
mph on his way down, breaking the speed of sound. No one has ever
accelerated to supersonic speed and decelerated back without the
protection of a craft (Baumgartner will be wearing a high-tech
spacesuit), so his Red Bull Stratos team can only guess how it will
affect his body. Fifteen cameras, plus two HDs mounted to his thighs,
will record the jump from capsule to ground and broadcast it to a live
TV and Web audience. If he’s successful, it could be the proof private
space companies need to take other explorers into low Earth orbit.