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Free fall

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October 15, 2012

Time magazine reports:

After strong winds and rain foiled his first attempts, on Sunday Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner completed a record-breaking (and sound-barrier-shattering) 24-mile (38 km) jump near Roswell, N.M.

The 43-year-old daredevil teamed up with Red Bull for this bold endeavor, known as the Stratos Mission to the Edge of Space. After seven years of planning, Baumgartner finally stepped off a balloon into the air, about 23½ miles above the New Mexico desert, and completed a free-fall toward the earth’s surface. It was a risky feat indeed, thus the need to wait for ideal conditions.

The former military parachutist has become the first human to break the sound barrier without the protection of a vehicle. Now that Baumgartner has successfully completed the jump, he has broken a total of three world records — and with that, he plans to retire.

A day after 8 million people watched the stunt live on YouTube Forbes wrote:

Baumgartner’s jump was the perfect thing to puncture that thick morass of messaging. It’s a real, tangible thing that’s exciting in a way an advertisement could never be. Red Bull could easily have spent that same money buying ads on the biggest social networks, but instead it just did something interesting enough that people spread the message for them. It may have been a stunt, but it was real, and that kind of tangibility is valuable in the digital age.

We’re seeing now that the simplest of social media campaigns – things like putting ads on Facebook or promoting tweets on Twitter – aren’t nearly as powerful as we might have once guessed. That doesn’t mean social media isn’t a powerful tool. Baumgartner’s jump was that perfect social media campaign because it didn’t go through the networks themselves, but through the people on the networks – Red Bull just did something that people wanted to talk about, and they used viral channels to do so.

July 27, 2012

Reuters reports:

Felix Baumgartner landed safely in a desert near Roswell, New Mexico after leaping from an estimated 96,940 feet wearing a pressurized space suit equipped with an oxygen supply.

The test parachute jump was the second for Baumgartner, who is on a quest to complete a record-breaking skydive from 120,000 feet in the coming weeks. He also hopes to become the first man to break the speed of sound at 700 mph in a free fall.

“Only one more step to go,” Baumgartner said in a statement.

The current record for the highest altitude skydive is 102,800 feet. It was set 52 years ago by U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger, who is serving as an adviser to Baumgartner.

A 43-year-old former member of the Austrian military, Baumgartner has jumped from Malaysia’s Petronas Towers and Taiwan’s Taipei 101, two of the world’s tallest buildings.

A helium-filled balloon lifted Baumgartner into the sky on Wednesday carrying him in a pressurized capsule.

He executed a free fall of 3 minutes and 48 seconds, reaching speeds of 536 mph, according to Red Bull Stratos, a project using the jumps to gather medical and scientific research data.

The mission statement of the Red Bull Stratos program reads:

The Red Bull Stratos team brings together the world’s leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication. It includes retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who holds three of the records Felix will strive to break.

Joe’s record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960 was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space. Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump.

Although researching extremes was part of the program’s goals, setting records wasn’t the mission’s purpose. Joe ascended in helium balloon launched from the back of a truck. He wore a pressurized suit on the way up in an open, unpressurized gondola. Scientific data captured from Joe’s jump was shared with U.S. research personnel for development of the space program. Today Felix and his specialized team hope to take what was learned from Joe’s jumps more than 50 years ago and press forward to test the edge of the human envelope.

The statement of the science mission seems like a “let’s push this button and see what happens” investigation:

Red Bull Stratos medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark, who was the crew surgeon for six Space Shuttle flights, wants to explore the effects of acceleration to supersonic velocity on humans: “We’ll be setting new standards for aviation. Never before has anyone reached the speed of sound without being in an aircraft. Red Bull Stratos is testing new equipment and developing the procedures for inhabiting such high altitudes as well as enduring such extreme acceleration. The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists.”

The statement of the technology mission seems more coherent:

Almost nothing is “off the shelf”. Successfully completing a supersonic freefall from the edge of space is an incredible challenge requiring technologically advanced equipment. Sage Cheshire Aerospace built the Red Bull Stratos capsule and continues to develop other vital systems on site. A pressurized space suit engineered especially for this mission by David Clark Co. is one of the key pieces of technology that could serve future generations of space travelers. Everything from a parachute that “thinks” for you with automatic safety systems, to a built-in gravity meter tasked with saving Felix’s life was built on historical knowledge with the goal of preventing the “what-if’s” inherent in a pioneering mission like this.

The numbers on the jump from the website say that the jump height was 29,455 m and the speed reached in freefall was 863 kph. Now, if you remember that g=9.80665 m/s^2, and factor in the duration of over 3 minutes, then you will come to the conclusion that there must have been a stupendous jerk when the parachute deployed. I wonder whether Felix Baumgartner’s shoulder and back are giving him trouble today.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 27, 2012 at 4:02 am

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