Text by Alyson Sheppard
Felix Baumgartner has already set free-falling records in this atmosphere—highest B.A.S.E. jump from a building, lowest B.A.S.E. jump—so now he’s taking his parachutes into the stratosphere. Later this year, the 41-year-old Austrian will ride in a pressurized capsule attached to a helium balloon 120,000 feet above the Earth. And then he’ll jump out. Baumgartner is expected to reach speeds of up to 740 mph on his way down, breaking the speed of sound. No one has ever accelerated to supersonic speed and decelerated back without the protection of a craft (Baumgartner will be wearing a high-tech spacesuit), so his Red Bull Stratos team can only guess how it will affect his body. Fifteen cameras, plus two HDs mounted to his thighs, will record the jump from capsule to ground and broadcast it to a live TV and Web audience. If he’s successful, it could be the proof private space companies need to take other explorers into low Earth orbit.
Read about the science behind Baumgartner’s jump and his rivalry with French parachutist Michel Fournier in Popular Mechanics.