Felix Baumgartner is planning to break the sound barrier – by jumping from a balloon-hoisted capsule above the desert near Roswell in the US.
He is expected to accelerate from 0 – 1110km/h in the first 40 seconds of his freefall in this never-before attempted jump of 37 km. That is about three times the height at which airliners fly. He should reach the sound barrier within about 30 seconds of jumping. The jump is expected to last more than 10 minutes.
Baumgartner, a former military parachutist from Austria, had years of experience doing skydiving and skyscraper leaping, but he is about to try and do what no one has done before. There are several good reasons why this is not a popular sport: his jump is incredibly dangerous. At best, doctors are hoping he will survive it.
Why the jump could be fatal
He will be wearing a pressurised suit and helmet for protection – and to help him breathe, as it is extremely cold at this altitude and the air pressure is less than 1 percent of what it is on earth. Any contact with the capsule on jumping could tear the suit, interfere with his oxygen supply, and cause lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids.
If he goes into a flat spin, in which his head and feet rotate around his body, blood could flow into these extremities, and cause shortness of breath, a headache, vision failure, confusion, and burst eyeballs. His lungs could overinflate and his blood could boil – and he could break his neck on impact if anything goes wrong.
Hitting the sound barrier could cause massive vibrations from passing sound waves and doctors have mentioned the possibility of internal injuries.
This has not stopped him from wanting to attempt the fastest and highest freefall ever. Chuck Yeager, when he broke the sound barrier 65 years ago, was inside an experimental rocket plane.
Baumgartner has tested his suit in two dress rehearsals. He will be carrying cameras to film this jump, and a parachute to help him land.
Watch the live stream on Redbullstratos.com.
(Compiled by Susan Erasmus, October 2012)
(Sources: News: National Geographic; Telegraph.co.uk; CBS news; Fox News))