“Sometimes you have to go up to understand how small you are. I’m coming home now.” These were the words uttered by Felix Baumgartner before the Austrian daredevil jumped from space back to Earth. It has been 10 years since he made the historic dive.
A Six Year Process
It was a project that was initially expected to take 24 months from start to finish but ended up taking up a number more years. “We thought, we’re going to build the capsule, build the pressure suit, practice for a while, and then we go all the way up to the stratosphere and come back to Earth at supersonic speed,” says Baumgartner.
To get Baumgartner up to the stratosphere, his team had to construct a helium balloon the size of 33 football pitches – weighing 3,708lbs. It took as many as 20 people to move without damaging the balloon’s material that was 10 times thinner than a sandwich bag. The suit had to be both pressurized and able to handle temperatures of minus 72° Celsius. “I had to look at the suit like it is my friend, not my enemy,” adds Baumgartner.
Going Supersonic !
The Austrian jumped from the balloon effectively while in space, where the normal rules of skydiving do not apply. He spent the next nine minutes falling through the sky, half of which were in complete freefall. “Once I was on my way, I slowly started to spin in one direction, then I started spinning in the opposite direction, and then I really started spinning faster and faster and faster,” Baumgartner explained.
“This was a very alarming moment because there is no protocol,” the 53-year-old said as he plummeted at a speed of 843.6 mph (1357.64 kmh) – 1.25 times that of sound. “It’s like sailing without wind meaning your skills do not work.” He eventually passed through the Armstrong line, where the air became thicker, and Baumgartner was able to stabilize himself and started to “enjoy my skydive.”
Baumgartner endured an agonizing 10-minute wait – more time than when he was actually in the air – before he received confirmation that he hit a top speed of 844mph, over 75mph faster than the speed of sound. “And at that moment I was really happy and satisfied because to me, breaking the speed of sound as a human, the first human in history, that was definitely something.”
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