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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Man Breaks Sound Barrier - In Freefall!

 
Moments after leaving the balloon's capsule, Felis begins the descent. Picture from the open door. All photos credit Red Bull Stratos.

Three world records were broken Sunday when Felix Baumgartner of Austria ascended to a record 128,100 feet (highest manned balloon ascent), and then jumped in a free fall descent to land by parachute in Roswell, New Mexico. Yes, THAT Roswell.


Felix leaves the capsule.

The attempt was hit by trouble. Once he had left the capsule, a heating problem with the visor caused fogging, and he immediately began a dangerous spin. Later he reported that he was concerned he could pass out from the spin forces. However, as he encountered thicker atmosphere, he managed to controlled his spin and continue the fall as planned.
On the way down, he broke another record when his speed reached an incredible mach 1.24, becoming the first person to exceed the sound barrier without a jet or rocket. Upon reaching the determined altitude, his chute opened to slow him, and then his parasail was deployed so he could maneuver to the designated landing zone.


Plenty of advertising space on the chute!

When he had safely reached the ground he fell to his knees and triumphantly raised his arms in victory. He was soon joined by his mentor, Col. Joe Kittinger (ret.) who was the previous record holder. Felix had now become the man with the highest parachute jump.
The record making jump occurred exactly 65 years from the day that another man, American Chuck Yeager, made his world record becoming the first to break the sound barrier in the Bell X-1, on October 14, 1947.

65 years ago, Chuck Yeager standing beside the Bell X-1.
Mark Daymont
Space Center Educator
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