Skydive From Space

February 8th, 2012 at 8:20 am by under News, Weather
Felix Baumgartner

Felix Baumgartner

Going to be honest with you..I’m not a fan of heights..thus, skydiving is not on my bucket list.  (I can’t bring myself to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.)

A typical skydive is nothing for renowned extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner.

Baumgartner has a laundry list of extreme accomplishments:

  • In 1999, he claimed the world record for highest parachute dive from a building when he jumped from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • In 2003, Baumgartner became the first person to cross the English Channel in freefall using a specially made fibre wing.
  • He set the world record for lowest base jump ever when he jumped from the hand of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
  • In 2004, he was the first person to base jump from the Millau Viaduct in France.
  • In 2006, Baumgartner was the first person to skydive onto, then base jump from the Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden.
  • In 2007, he became the first person to jump from the 91st floor observation deck of the world’s tallest building, the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan.

Now, Felix Baumgartner will push his body to the limit and attempt to break and set world records by becoming the first person to skydive from space!  This August, he will be doing a “stratospheric free fall jump” from around 23 miles (120,000 feet) above the Earth!  Red Bull will sponsor Baumgartner and says he could be, “the first human to break the speed of sound with his own body.”

This just blows my mind.

You might ask, “how in the world is he going to pull this off??”  First, Baumgartner will be wearing a special, fully-loaded suit weighing 260 lbs.  This suit will be equiped with a chest pack that has monitoring, tracking, and communications systems.  A helium-filled balloon (similar to a weather balloon) will lift Baumgartner inside a space capsule.  Once launched, he will float at 1,000 feet per minute to 120,000 feet within 3 hours.  This helium balloon is only 1/10 the thickness of a ziploc bag, yet it weighs more than 3,000 lbs.!  Stretched out, it would cover 40 acres!

Here’s your weather lesson of the day: as the balloon ascends, the temperature decreases with height up to the troposphere.  In the stratosphere, the temperature increases with height.  The warmer air in the stratosphere comes from ozone molecules absorbing ultraviolet light from the sun.

Before Baumgartner leaves his capsule, he will wait for a “clear to jump” from mission control.  Once he depressurizes and detatches hoses, he must jump.  In an emergency, he could ride the capsule back to Earth, unpressurized and with limited oxygen.  Baumgartner is likely to reach the speed of sound within 40 seconds from 120,000 feet.  The speed of sound is 1,126 feet per second!!  This is 768 MPH or 1 mile in 5 seconds!!

As Baumgartner falls closer to the troposphere, where commercial airliners fly, the air molecules multiply which act as a gradual brake when he comes sailing through the sky at supersonic speeds.

 If all goes as planned, Baumgartner will:

  1. Be the first person to reach supersonic speed in a freefall: he’ll break the speed of sound and achieve Mach 1 in freefall, estimated 690 MPH, with further acceleration possible.
  2. Freefall from the highest altitude: expected jump from 120,000 feet.
  3. Longest freefall time: expected freefall time of more than 5 minutes.
  4. Highest manned balloon flight.

Baumgartner will deploy his parachute at 5,000 feet.  He must slow to 172 MPH before opening his parachute.  From this point, it’ll take 10-15 minutes before he reaches the ground.  His total time in the air from the edge of space to Earth: 15-20 minutes!


….I guess, best of luck to him!  Look out for those airplanes and gaggles of geese on the way down!

-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor

All of this information courtesy of:

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