The National Space Society congratulates Felix Baumgartner and the entire Red Bull Stratos team on the Mission to the Edge of Space, in which Baumgartner successfully completed a record-breaking, high-altitude parachute jump on Sunday afternoon.
Unofficially, Baumgartner’s jump from approximately 128,100 feet (24.2 miles) enabled him to break the sound barrier and achieve the supersonic speed of 833 mph for several seconds, thus breaking three of four previously set records that he was hoping to shatter: highest manned balloon flight, highest parachute jump, and fastest free fall.
Two of those records (highest jump and fastest free fall) were set by former Air Force pilot Joe Kittinger in 1960, who served as chief of capsule communications for Baumgartner’s trip to the stratosphere. Baumgartner missed breaking the longest free fall record – also held by Kittinger – by mere seconds.
Aside from being the latest in a series of very extreme sports challenges sponsored by Red Bull energy drinks, Baumgartner’s jump is very relevant to the aerospace and space tourism industries, as it provides new and critically important medical and scientific research about the effect of this type of parachute jump on the human body.
This research will result in improved safety features for our astronauts, as well as for the large numbers of space tourists who will soon be flying, and ultimately will help make high-altitude emergency bailouts not only feasible, but safe. Baumgartner’s jump is yet another stepping stone toward the feasibility of human beings regularly living, working, and traveling in space.