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Free Falling at The Speed of Sound – Tech Tuesday

Felix Baumgartner is planning to do something no one else ever has- to freefall from the edge of space, open a parachute and land safely on the Earth. But there is one pesky thing in his way- the speed of sound. He will reach the speed of sound on his freefall without an aircraft. He’ll just be wearing a “space suit”. A test jump by Felix from 70,000 feet was a success. From here, they move closer to the real goal.

Photo by Joerg Mitter/Red Bull via Getty Images

The project is called Red Bull Stratos, and the goal is to break the world record free fall height. The plan in for Baumgartner to fly up to the target altitude of 120,000 feet in a capsule supported by a high altitude balloon, open a door on the capsule and jump. Pretty simple, huh? Not really, because at that altitude, without protection, your blood would boil from the gasses escaping your body because the atmosphere is almost nonexistent. Baumgartner will be wearing a pressurized suit, to protect him. This suit weighs about 30 pounds and was specially made for Felix. It will be packed with tons of scientific instruments to record what happens on the way down as well as providing Baumgartner protection. It’s said this will result in scientific data we have only been able to speculate about.

Photo by Jay Nemeth/Red Bull via Getty Images

The parachute that he’ll use is also made specifically for this jump. Most parachutes won’t open above 25,000 feet. This new parachute will be opened at 172 mph during the fall. He will also have a drogue chute, which will stabilize Baumgartner’s freefall at supersonic speed, should his fall start become unstable. There is even a cutaway reserve chute. This is different in that if he deploys his chute too early, he could run out of oxygen in his suit before he gets to a safe altitude. So his chute is designed for him to cut it loose and then free fall before deploying his second parachute.

This is a pretty bold thing to be working towards. One could almost say this is the last frontier for a daredevil to explore. But the data learned from will this will help in medical research for future pioneers of space flight. While J.J. Abrahms may have revitalized the Star Trek motto of “..where no man has gone before” with a space jump scene in the Star Trek movie, Felix Baumgartner is going to be doing it for real. No specific date has been set for the jump, but it’s estimated to be this summer sometime in June or July.

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