He is about as close as it gets for humans to being
a batman or a superman.
He has jumped off the Petronas Tower in Kuala
Lumpur and even flown across the English Channel,
with the help of carbon fibre wings. Meet Fearless
Felix – the Austrian sky-diver, who has just set a
world record to become the first man to break the
As millions around the world experienced the view of
the round blue earth surrounded by the black of
space, captured from the Red Bull Stratos Mission’s
capsule’s camera, Felix Baumartner, stepped off
into the void and plummeted for more than
four minutes, reaching a maximum speed of 1.24 Mach
or 1,342 kmph, before landing safely in the New
Mexico desert, with the help of his parachute.
He broke altitude and speed records set half a
century ago by Joe Kittinger, now 84, a retired Air
Force colonel, who guided Felix through tense
moments from the Roswell Mission Control room.
During the course of his historic jump, Felix
was successful in setting three of the four new
world records. 1. Reaching the maximum altitude of
2. Maximum speed of 1,342.8 kms per hour
corresponding to Mach 1.24 and 3. Total free fall
distance of 36,529 metres.
He did not break the record for longest
duration free fall. His total free fall time was 4
minutes 20 seconds, which was 16 seconds short of
the current world record held by his mentor Joe
“It was harder than I expected. Trust me, when you
stand up there on top of the world, you become so
humble. It’s not about breaking records any more.
It’s not about getting scientific data. It’s all
about coming home.” said Felix during his mission
accomplished press conference.
Red Bull Stratos Mission
Salzburg born, 43 year old Felix Baumgartner was
backed by a NASA style mission control operation
called Red Bull Stratos. More than 300 people,
including more than 70 engineers, scientists and
physicians, worked at the Mission Control Room at
Roswell, New Mexico.
It was not a mere extreme adventure sport mission.
Besides aiming at records, the engineers and
scientists on the Red Bull Stratos team intended to
gather data that would help future pilots,
astronauts and space tourists survive if they have
to bail-out. The mission was also intended to test
new age space-suits, escape concepts and treatment
protocols for pressure loss at very high altitudes.
On top of this, every one also wanted to
know, what happens to the human body when it breaks
the sound barrier?
The Mission to break the sound barrier was announced
in January, 2010, with the help of a sponsorship
from Red Bull – the energy drink company.
It was decided that Felix Baumgartner would
jump off from 36,000 feet, intending to become the
first parachutist to break the sound barrier. This
would be possible because, while the normal speed of
the free-falling sky-diver is about 320 kmph, the
high altitude, with less dense atmosphere would
The preparation period was grueling. While Felix had
no trouble jumping off buildings and bridges, and
soaring across the English Channel, he found himself
suffering panic attacks when forced to spend hours
inside the pressurized suit and helmet. At one point
in 2010, rather than take an endurance test, Felix
went to an airport and boarded a plane fleeing the
United States. Later, with the help of a sports
psychologist and other specialists, he learned
techniques of dealing with the claustrophobia.
Felix was originally scheduled to jump on the
morning of October 9, 2012, but the mission got
delayed because of bad weather. Technicians at the
launch site also found that one of the capsule’s
communication radios was faulty, forcing the launch
to be rescheduled.
The mission was finally launched on Sunday
October 14, 2012 at
9.30 a.m. amidst clear weather and winds
blowing at 5.5 kmph.
The ground temperature was 14 degree Celsius.
Felix Baumgartner’s specially designed
capsule, attached to a helium balloon, took around
2.5 hours to ascend to the required height.
Things became difficult shortly after crossing the
and Felix’s visor developed a malfunction.
Armstrong Limit is the altitude that produces an
atmospheric pressure so low that water boils even at
the normal temperature of the human body.
Beyond this limit, humans can not survive in
an unpressurized environment.
One of the techniques Felix developed was to stay
busy throughout the ascent. He conversed steadily
with Mr. Kittinger at the Roswell Control room and
went through a 40-item checklist mentally rehearsing
every move that he would make when the time to leave
the capsule came.
When the actual moment came, Mr. Kittinger said to
Felix, “All right, step up on the exterior step.
Start the cameras. And our guardian angel will take
care of you now.” Divine words, indeed.
Felix stepped outside and delivered a message that
was mostly garbled by radio static. Later, he
repeated it: “I know the whole world is watching,
and I wish the whole world could see what I see.
Sometimes you have to go up really high to
understand how small you really are…. I am coming
Baumgartner saluted and dived forward off the ledge
at 12:08 local time. After 42 seconds of descent,
Felix reached his maximum velocity of 1,342
kilometres per hour (834 mph).
Within two minutes, he lost control of his
body and went into an uncontrolled spin.
Those were the anxious moments at the Control
room as the spin, if not controlled soon, would have
proved fatal, as blood would have gushed out of
Thankfully, Felix was able to control his spin.
an abort switch that would have allowed
deployment of a drogue parachute which would
have arrested the spin but prevented him from
breaking any speed records.
Felix couldn't say what it felt like to smash
through the sound barrier. He said his pressurized
space suit prevented him from experiencing the
supersonic boom as he broke the sound barrier and
accelerated through the heavens at 1,342 kmph.
11 minutes after jumping from the capsule,
Baumgartner landed successfully on his feet in
eastern New Mexico.
“He demonstrated that a man could survive in an
extremely high altitude escape situation,” Mr.
Kittinger said. “Future astronauts will wear the
spacesuit that Felix test-jumped today.”
Reb Bull Stratos announced on its website “Mission
here to see Image