Print 41 comment(s) - last by Chocobollz.. on May 25 at 1:04 PM

One daredevil prepares for his 120,000 foot fall.

At an altitude of 120,000 feet, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, clad in a pressurized suit with oxygen tanks, will jump out of a helium balloon he boarded in New Mexico. At such an extreme height, Baumgartner plans to reach supersonic speeds. Within 30 seconds of his free fall, he expects to exceed 690 miles per hour (the speed of sound), and therefore breaking the sound barrier.

"That is what we want to find out: What happens to the human body when it breaks the speed of sound," Baumgartner explains.

If Baumgartner succeeds, he will hold the record for the highest, longest, and fastest free fall ever. He will also be named the first person to break the sound barrier without some sort of vehicle. The current record holder, Joe Kittinger, serves as Baumgartner's enlisted consultant. Kittinger set his record in 1960 with the Air Force at 102,800 feet. It is "a very distant and hostile place to be," he told 

After riding the balloon 23 miles upwards, Baumgartner will jump. At that extreme altitude, blood boils at body temperature. To combat the extreme environment, he will be wear a face mask that will de-fog thanks to face-shield heating, allowing Baumgartner to see his fall, as well as sealed boots and gloves. The parachute on his back will open automatically as well, if in fact Baumgartner cannot open it himself, in the worst case scenario. He is also equipped with a back-up parachute. Baumgartner explains that they have learned a lot from people who have tried to break records such as Kittingers', and failed. "Some of these people got killed."

Even though Baumgartner claims his engineers are taking every precaution, no one knows exactly what happens to a human body at that altitude and speed. "You can never say you're not going to get killed under any circumstances, but we have a lot of solutions for emergency situations," Baumgartner explains. He later says that a chain reaction of events would lead to the worst-case scenario--a fatal fall.

Baumgartner's five minute fall also has another reason behind it: to demonstrate that future tourists, returning from space without the aid of a spacecraft, could in fact return to Earth. "We will show to the world that egress from high altitude is survivable," he said.

The dive, financed by Red Bull, is planned for this summer. "I think it's human nature, you know. Records are meant to be broken. And I'm a very competitive person. I like the challenge," Baumgartner adds.

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It won't work, he's an idiot
By joex444 on 5/23/2010 7:51:03 PM , Rating: 4
Sorry guys, look at the info given:

690 mph in 30 seconds.

Only downward force is gravity; upward force is air resistance.

v2 = v1 + a*t; solve for a.

I don't know about you wack jobs, but I get a = 10.3 m/s^2 and you know what... g = 9.81 m/s^2 at the surface of the Earth.

Clearly his people have something wrong, g goes down with altitude not up. Furthermore, they've neglected drag. Now I don't know what the density of air is at 120k ft but I do know that fall would also cover a distance of atleast 4400ft, a pretty insignificant amount. Furthermore, air resistance changes with speed. It is nearly linear at small velocities, but becomes quadratic near the speed of sound. Because of this fact alone, I'm going to go out on a rather small limb and say he will not break the speed of sound. Air resistance will change to a quadratic relationship in such a way to give him a terminal velocity less than mach 1, end of story.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By FaceMaster on 5/23/10, Rating: 0
RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By B3an on 5/23/2010 8:12:10 PM , Rating: 4
LOL i love it when random people on the net think they know more than the guys doing this sort of stuff, with all the money, calculations, and man power that must go into it.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By FaceMaster on 5/24/10, Rating: -1
RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By paydirt on 5/24/2010 8:54:49 AM , Rating: 1
meh. Don't rely on your equations too much.

Some still rely on an equation for green house gases which includes a "break away" term in the equation which HAS to be wrong since the Earth had 20 TIMES the CO2 in prehistoric times and no break away situation occurred back then.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By FaceMaster on 5/24/2010 4:49:50 PM , Rating: 3
...What equations?

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By Drag0nFire on 5/23/2010 10:27:39 PM , Rating: 5
Hey. Pay attention to the man. Do the calculations yourself if you don't believe him.

Newtonian mechanics:
V = a * t (assuming starting from a velocity of 0)

Assuming gravity is the same as at the surface (it's actually less) and there's no drag (there is), we can say that:

V = -9.8 (m/s^2) * 30 s
V = -294 m/s (at 30s after falling)

294 m/s comes in at just a bit under 658mph. So even if you weren't considering drag / terminal velocity, he still couldn't reach the speed of sound after 30 seconds. This isn't to say he won't reach the speed of sound at some point in his descent. But the quoted facts are wrong.

It doesn't take an advanced degree or lots of man power to figure this out. Just a calculator, and the desire not to be a douchebag.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By HotFoot on 5/23/2010 10:52:51 PM , Rating: 3
I believe the misquote is limited to the word "under". As in, it should have been "about". If the fall were in a vacuum and gravity was 9.81 m/s the whole way, he would in fact break what the speed of sound is for altitudes over 35,000 ft in just 30.1 seconds: 294.9 m/s.

The air is very thin, but it's not zero, so very true I can't see how the speed of sound will be broken in under 30 seconds if it's a free-fall. But 32... 35 seconds, that's quite plausible.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By Calin on 5/24/2010 9:21:26 AM , Rating: 1
The speed of sound is slower at altitudes higher than 35,000 feet, and he'll start his dive at some 120,000 feet.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By grenableu on 5/24/2010 9:32:50 AM , Rating: 1
You guys are funny. Congrats on proving it should have taken 31.5 seconds instead of 30, which makes the guy's entire team "totally wrong" because they rounded a number when they talked to reporters.


Oh, and gravity doesn't appreciably decrease at 120,000 feet. Go out 120,000 miles and its still pretty strong in fact, what do you think holds the moon in place?

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By callmeroy on 5/24/2010 1:54:22 PM , Rating: 2
Those calculations are cool and all...but have you calculated the drag caused by the crap this guy will take in his pants as that moment of sanity hits him once he reaches about 600 MPH going straight down.....

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By Spivonious on 5/24/2010 3:33:11 PM , Rating: 2
But with nothing around him for reference, will it feel like 600mph?

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By angryplayer on 5/23/2010 7:58:51 PM , Rating: 3
Doesn't the speed of sound change at different densities too?

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By nafhan on 5/24/2010 9:53:30 AM , Rating: 2
In fact, assuming an ideal gas, the speed of sound c depends on temperature only, not on the pressure or density (since these change in lockstep for a given temperature and cancel out). Air is almost an ideal gas. The temperature of the air varies with altitude, giving the following variations in the speed of sound using the standard atmosphere - actual conditions may vary.
So, that's probably a reasonable number for the speed of sound at the altitude at which he'd break the sound barrier.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By hr824 on 5/23/2010 7:59:26 PM , Rating: 3
Joseph Kittinger jumped from 102800 feet with a small droue chute for stability and still reached 614 mph so losing the drogue chute he should break the sound barrier no problem.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By yxalitis on 5/23/2010 8:25:36 PM , Rating: 2
Basically, air resistance at such extreme altitudes is small anough that terminal velocity is greater then the speed of sound. It isn't to allow for a very long free fall that they are going so high, it's for the reduced air resistance.

But I still think he'll die a horrible death...something will fail at those speeds, and he'll freeze...that's what I'd bet on.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By ekv on 5/24/2010 2:39:13 AM , Rating: 2
something will fail at those speeds, and he'll freeze
Oh come on, hasn't Tony Stark has already solved it.

I do though question how this guy will fare on doing Mach when transitioning from low-density air into high-density air. That's a lot of friction and buffeting you'd be asking for. Further, hi-speed parachutes are not trivial in design or manufacturing.

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By tallcool1 on 5/24/2010 12:55:44 PM , Rating: 2
But I still think he'll die a horrible death...something will fail at those speeds, and he'll freeze...that's what I'd bet on.

Welcome to his world, the world of Red Bull...

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By HotFoot on 5/23/2010 10:45:47 PM , Rating: 2
If there was no air resistance, by the time he reached sea level he'd be going about Mach 2. v = sqrt(g*h)

So, at the start of the fall, he's got twice the energy needed. I'm not prepared to do the calculations for compressible-flow over the human body, but we know he'll be below 60,000 ft when he breaks the speed of sound. My guess is it'll be closer to 40,000 - 45,000 ft, which makes sense in terms of figuring out why they decided to start at 120,000 ft. Much below 40,000 ft the atmosphere gets denser, speed of sound starts to increase due to higher temperature, and drag will go up.

I'm curious about the shape of this man's suit. I'd expect drag divergence on the human body at a fairly low speed, maybe around Mach 0.8, unless he's wearing some fancy helm and doing something w.r.t. the area rule.

I wonder what Whitcomb would have said about this. He's missed the attempt by less than a year. :(

RE: It won't work, he's an idiot
By Chocobollz on 5/25/2010 1:04:31 PM , Rating: 2
I don't care if he's breaking the supersonic speed record or not. How about drinking some red bulls and do the jump? Now, that would be interesting ;-)

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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