Created on: February 07, 2013
Parachuting from a plane requires some bravery, but parachuting from 24 miles above the Earth requires something beyond fearlessness, particularly when you are traveling at Mach 1.25. In a new analysis of the October 2012 supersonic jump by Felix Baumgartner (aka “Fearless Felix”) from an altitude of 127,852 feet (slightly lower than originally estimated), it was determined that the parachutist traveled even faster than first thought.
According to the BBC, the revised data will now be submitted to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), the global organization that oversees and maintains such records.
Traveling faster than the speed of sound
According to the “Huffington Post,” the 47-year old daredevil traveled 843.6 miles per hour (10 miles an hour faster than first calculated). That equates to a rate faster than Mach 1 (or one and a quarter times the speed of sound), making him the first human to break that barrier with only his body.
Baumgartner leapt to Earth from a capsule raised by a stratospheric balloon filled with helium over Roswell, New Mexico. He wore a pressurized suit, which enabled him to keep his heart rate below 185 beats per minute and maintain a fairly steady breathing rate.
The records and analysis were verified by Brian Utley of the National Aeronautics Association’s Contest and Records Board. The data on which these records were based were collected via sensors attached to the pressurized suit Baumgartner wore. Utley determined that it was just 34 seconds after he jumped that Baumgartner reached the speed of sound.
Determining that point in the journey depends, in part, on the temperature, as well as altitude. The fastest part of the fall came at 91,300 feet (Mach 1.25), some 16 seconds later. The entire free fall lasted some 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Baumgartner used a parachute for the last 5,000 feet, and, of course, landed safely. Amazingly, he landed on his feet.
Potential troubles that could have been
Despite breaking all records for human travel unimpeded, not everything about the journey was smooth, but Baumgartner managed to avoid the worst possibilities. Potential threats to completing the jump included the chance that he could have blacked out or suffered a stroke, particularly when he began spinning. Danger also could have taken his life, had his suit torn, which would have literally allowed his blood to boil.
As it was, the parachutist did experience a wild segment in which he was spinning at 60 revolutions per minute for about 13 seconds. Despite this, he remained in the safety zone and was able to pull himself out of the spin.
Beating Kittinger’s record
Felix Baumgartner was not only the first human to break the sound barrier with only his body, he also managed to improve on the record of Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger. Kittinger, now in his 80s, did not reach the speed of sound, but came close in his 1960 jump from 19.5 miles up.
Kittinger was a consultant on Baumgartner’s team, “providing advice and encouragement” according to the BBC. Unlike the leap made by Kittinger, Baumgartner’s jump was viewed live by more than 50 million people around the world via YouTube.
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