Sunday, October 14, 2012

Apple #607: Felix Baumgartner

Everybody is talking about that jaw-dropping free-fall from the stratosphere that Felix Baumgartner accomplished successfully today.  I didn't know anything about this until after it happened.  Naturally, while reading the news articles, I wanted to know, who is this guy?

Felix Baumgartner, at the start of his free fall from the stratosphere.
(Photo from Wired)


First, a few statistics about his jump.  Some of these numbers have yet to be verified, but these are the unofficial numbers currently being reported.
  • Baumgartner was the first sky diver to break the speed of sound.
  • He reached a top speed of 833.9 mph, or Mach 1.24.
  • The ascent took 2 hours and 21 minutes. Total time of descent: 9 minutes, 3 seconds.
  • Total distance traveled in descent: 24.2 miles
  • He also set a record for the highest free fall, from 128,097 feet.
  • The time he spent in free fall (before his chute opened) was 4 minutes 20 seconds, just 16 seconds shy of the record held by Air Force Col (Ret) Joe Kittinger set 1960.
  • The jump was performed from a space capsule in the stratosphere over Roswell, NM.
  • Since he got up there in a capsule lifted by a helium-filled balloon, his first record set was for the highest manned balloon flight.
  • He was wearing a pressurized suit that also protected him from the very cold, near-vacuum of the stratosphere.
  • Today, October 14, 2012, is the 65th anniversary of when Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 rocket.

Here is video of the jump beginning just before Baumgartner leaves the capsule.  When he pushes himself out into space, I clutch myself in terror.

For more video, The Washington Post has video from CBS News that they've excerpted to show the highlights from before his take-off, through the ascent, the jump itself, the descent, and the landing.

This photo was taken on one of the days when the jump had to be canceled because of a dust devil in the area. You can get a good look at that pressurized suit here, though.
(Photo from Felix Baumgartner's Facebook page)

  • He said the thing that bothered him the most wasn't the height or the fall, but the pressurized suit & helmet.  He suffers from claustrophobia. When he put on the suit, he could barely stand more than a few minutes in it.  He said that when the visor closed, he got a feeling of "nightmarish silence and loneliness."


Now, about Felix.

This is Felix Baumgartner looking very tough-guy severe.
(Photo from Felix Baumgartner)

Here's the more relaxed Felix on Catalina Island.  I think that statue is of a seal.
(Photo from Felix Baumgartner)

  • 43 years old. Born April 20, 1969.
  • Born in Salzburg, Austria, now lives in Switzerland.
  • Made his first skydive at 16. 
  • He has a girlfriend.  Just in case you were wondering.
  • He's a former paratrooper for the Austrian military's Special Forces unit. 
  • After he left the military, he made his living repairing motorcycles while continuing to skydive.
  • He makes his living now as a stunt coordinator, operating freefall cameras, and as a commercial helicopter pilot.
  • He also says he is a professional B.A.S.E. jumper.  I didn't know you could get paid for that.  I guess, since Red Bull is his sponsor, he does.  Regardless, he obviously enjoys doing it. 
  • Other records he's set: lowest B.A.S.E. jump from Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue, 2-time record setter for highest B.A.S.E. jump from a building, and once landed with a chute inside a cave in Croatia.
  • On his website, he makes a lot of references to 502. He's made a logo of it, and he's got a tattoo of the logo.  502 is his B.A.S.E. jumping registration code. 

Here's Felix, sporting his 502 tattoo, and getting a medical check before a jump.
(Photo from Felix Baumgartner)

  • B.A.S.E. jumping is a very dangerous sport of using a parachute to jump from fixed objects.
  • To get your official B.A.S.E. jumping registration code, you have to jump from objects in each of the four categories:
    • B = Building
    • A = Antenna
    • S = Span (bridges)
    • E = Earth (cliffs)
  • Here's what the B.A.S.E. organization says about itself: " does not recommend anybody to get into BASE. It takes a certain type of person to become a BASE jumper and more likely than not, you are not that person."

This is the image Baumgartner has posted at the top of his blog.
(Image from Felix Baumgartner)

  • “Trust me, when you stand up there on top of the world, you become so humble. It’s not about breaking records anymore. It’s not about getting scientific data. It’s all about coming home.” -- Felix Baumgartner

Edit: February 2014, GoPro has released the video of their what their 7 cameras on his body caught as he fell.  There's some preliminary stuff, but the real thing starts 52 seconds in.

Felix Baumgartner's blog
Felix Baumgartner's website
Red Bull Stratos, Felix Baumgartner
Chuck Squatriglia, 'Fearless Felix' Falls 24 Miles to Earth, Wired, October 14, 2012
John Tierney, Daredevil Jumps, and Lands on His Feet, The New York Times, October 14, 2012
AP via The Washington Post, Skydiver lands smoothly after daring 24-mile leap; officials say he broke sound barrier, October 14, 2012 

ABCNews, Felix Baumgartner Beat Claustrophobia in Record Sky Dive, October 15, 2012, Getting into BASE

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