Man Plans Record Supersonic Freefall Jump From 23 Miles Above the Earth
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner plans to attempt a record-breaking freefall jump from 120,000 feet (23 miles) sometime this summer. This would beat the previous record - set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger - by 3.5 miles. The jump has the commercial backing of sponsor Red Bull. The mission has been named Red Bull Statos.
Baumgartner will be carried to his jump position in a capsule carried by a high-altitude balloon. By doing so he hopes to also set the altitude record for the highest manned balloon flight. You can read more about the pressurized capsule he will be riding in here. The image above shows Baumgartner about to jump from the edge of the capsule from a test from 71,581 feet on March 15, 2012.
In addition to the freefall distance jump and manned balloon records, Baumgartner also plans to become the first human to break the speed of sound while wearing only a spacesuit. The suit he will be wearing is pictured above. A Universe Today story notes that the human body is not designed for supersonic speeds.
Red Bull Stratos medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark, who was the crew surgeon for six Space Shuttle flights, wants to explore the effects of acceleration to supersonic velocity on humans. He says, "We'll be setting new standards for aviation. Never before has anyone reached the speed of sound without being in an aircraft. Red Bull Stratos is testing new equipment and developing the procedures for inhabiting such high altitudes as well as enduring such extreme acceleration. The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists."
Red Bull plans a live webcast of the Baumgartner's jump. Here is a video about the jump from Red Bull. Take a look: