Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space 24 miles above the surface of the Earth on Sunday. This is the highest and fastest jump in human history; he ultimately reached 833.9 miles per hour, Mach 1.24. Baumgartner is the first human to break the sound barrier without a plane surrounding him.
Before stepping off the platform, he made this statement:
"I know the whole world is watching, and I wish the whole world could see what I see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.”
(Red Bull Stratos jump video)
He broke altitude and speed records set half a century ago by Joe Kittinger, now 84, a retired Air Force colonel whose reassuring voice from mission control guided Mr. Baumgartner through tense moments. Engineers considered aborting the mission when Mr. Baumgartner’s faceplate began fogging during the ascent, but he insisted on proceeding and made plans for doing the jump blind.
That proved unnecessary, but a new crisis occurred early in the jump when he began spinning out of control in the thin air of the stratosphere — the same problem that had nearly killed Mr. Kittinger a half-century earlier. But as the atmosphere thickened, Mr. Baumgartner managed to stop the spin and fall smoothly until he opened his parachute about a mile above the ground and landed smoothly in the New Mexico desert.
“We’re testing new spacesuits, escape concepts and treatment protocols for pressure loss at extreme altitudes,” said the Red Bull Stratos medical director, Dr. Jonathan Clark, who formerly oversaw the health of space shuttle crews at NASA.
The 2009 remake of the Star Trek franchise contained a dramatic leap from space.
(Space diving in Star Trek - the new movie)
Baumgartner's amazing jump was imagined by E.E. 'Doc' Smith in this scene from his classic 1934 novel Triplanetary in this jump from a supersonic plane at the edge of space:
Back toward the trailing edges then, to a small escape-hatch beside which was fastened a dull black ball... He gasped as the air rushed out into near-vacuum... He rolled the ball out onto the hatch, where he opened it: two hinged hemispheres, each heavily padded with molded composition resembling sponge rubber...
...He curled up into one half of the ball; the other half closed over him and locked. The hatch opened. Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward.