Daredevil BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner will hope to become the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall when he attempts Red Bull’s most extreme stunt yet. Pushing their reputation for endorsing extreme sports to the limit, the energy drink brand is fuelling the record-attempting parachute jump, which will see the Austrian stuntman leaping from a death-defying 120,000ft in the air, virtually on the edge of space. There will be no air, little atmosphere and little hope should anything go wrong, but should the mission succeed then Felix and the Red Bull Stratos team will carve their names into history.
If you are struggling to put it into context, then some cold, hard statistics may well bring home the sheer extremity of what is being attempted. Here’s a basic guide to some of the key facts behind the mission to the edge of the earth and back.
Felix will leap from a staggering 120,000ft above the surface of the earth. That’s nearly 23 miles, and more than 36.5km high. That’s four Mount Everests stacked on top of each other, or 96 Empire State Buildings. In doing so he will be trying to beat a record which has stood for more than half a century, after US Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger leapt from 102,800ft back in 1960. He’s not bitter about the threat to his record though, in fact, he’s helping out with the mission.
How he will get there:
Hard as it may be to believe, he’s heading up in a good old helium balloon. Not quite the sort you get given at children’s parties, this one will launch him to 120,000ft in under three hours and will be 600ft high when launched from the site in Roswell, New Mexico. He will be holed up in a pressurised capsule underneath the balloon, stocked full of navigation and communication equipment as well as oxygen and nitrogen supplies.
It’s full on, supercharged astronaut gear for the main man Felix. A custom-built and pressurised space suit is designed to protect him from the rigours of hanging around in the stratosphere, while it will also protect him from searing heat and extreme cold, both of which he will endure on his mission. A chest pack containing a host of communications gear will help keep him in touch with the control centre back down on earth.
Now for the really frightening bit. A regular, old skydiver can hit speeds of around 120mph, but Felix will be attempting to break the sound barrier; it is expected that to do that would involve him hitting around 690mph which it is predicted would happen at around 100,000ft high. The lack of atmosphere at that height means there is less of the air resistance encountered by sky divers closer to the earth allowing him to hit potentially supersonic speeds. He will slow down as he gets closer to the earthrsquo;s surface, hopefully deploying his parachute at around 5,000ft, having freefallen for a breathtaking 115,000ft.
When will it happen?
It’s been seven years in the planning and understandably not the sort of thing to be rushed. However legal issues over whose idea it had been and the threat of a lawsuit had put the brakes on the project for a number of months after American entrepreneur Daniel Hogan claimed he had originally approached the firm with a similar scheme. But an out-of-court settlement has removed that legal barrier and it is now full speed ahead once again for Red Bull and Baumgartner. The mission itself is now pencilled in for a yet-to-be-confirmed date in 2012.
Written by Annabel, Event Organiser for Chillisauce, a company specialising in great Stag Weekends and Hen Party Ideas