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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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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...

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