On the left, Felix Baumgartner salutes as he starts his walk towards his space capsule in Roswell, New Mexico, on March 15. On the right, the moment before he jumped from 13 miles up in the sky. That photo alone blows my mind.
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The 42-year-old Baumgartner—in a fully pressurized jump suit—got into his specially designed Red Bull Stratos capsule to reach the 13.6 miles mark in the first successful test towards his world record-breaking space jump. The capsule, attached to a 100-foot-wide helium balloon, only took him to 71,581 feet this time. He then jumped into a free fall that lasted for three minutes and 43 seconds. He reached a speed of 364.4 miles per hour (586.4 kilometers per hour).
To give you an idea of how amazing this is already, a Boeing 747 normally flies at about 8.6 miles high (14,000 meters).
And yet, it is nothing compared to what is coming. Baumgartner wants to jump from an altitude of 23 miles (120,000 feet or 37 kilometers), getting close to the edge of the stratosphere. When he does that, he will fall for an estimated 5 minutes and 30 seconds, breaking the speed of sound in the process. After flying at Mach 1 for a while, he will open his parachute at one mile (about 1,500 meters). If everything goes ok, he will reach the ground 10 minutes later.
When he does that this summer, after another test jump at 90,000 feet, he will break the record set by United States Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger on August 16, 1960. Kittinger jumped from the Excelsior III balloon, which at the time was flying at 102,800 feet-that's 19.47 miles or 31 kilometers up in the sky. Kittinger didn't have all the fancy equipment that Baumgartner is using, but it doesn't matter. Both of them are as gloriously crazy as the first astronauts. Well done, Fearless Felix, and godspeed for the next jump! [Red Bull Stratos]