By Tetsuhiko Endo; Photograph by Luke Aikins/Red Bull Photofiles
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Felix Baumgartner loves going to high places and jumping off. Whether it’s airplanes, or cliffs, or the top of the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, the 41-year-old Austrian has thrown himself off of it with a parachute and lived to tell the tale. Pretty simple, right? Not if said “high place” is the stratosphere—where he plans to be when he attempts the highest skydive in history sometime in the next couple of months.
The successful completion of the jump (i.e. Baumgartner makes to the ground alive) is the main goal of the Red Bull Stratos Project. The collaboration, which is part “new space” research mission and part extreme sports market branding initiative, aims to take “Fearless Felix” to 120,000 feet above the Earth’s surface in a specially modified helium balloon and then drop him earthward. If all goes according to plan, Stratos researchers hope to gain valuable information on high-altitude technology. And Baumgartner hopes to become the first skydiver to break the speed of sound.