Warning: Baumgartner goes into a violent spin around the 5:10 mark, so if you get motion sick easily you might want to skip forward to 6:10, by which time he’s recovered.
I’ve never really had much of a fear of heights, certainly not enough that I would list if it asked about my most intense phobias. That being said, I don’t know if I’d have the stones to follow in Felix Baumgartner’s footsteps. Primarily because those footsteps involved stepping out of a perfectly good balloon some 24 miles above the surface of the Earth. By now, most of us have probably already watched the footage of Baumgartner’s record-breaking leap in October 2012, but trust me when I say you should still watch this new version of it above, a dizzying high-def, first-person record of Baumgartner’s faster-than-sound descent.
Standing on the ledge, looking out over the curve of the Earth, Baumgartner said, “I wish you could see what I can see. Sometimes, you have to get up really high to understand how small you are.” I wonder if that was purely off the cuff or if, knowing this moment would be one for the history books, he’d worked it out before. If it was me, I totally would have been practicing just so I didn’t come up empty when the time came to say something profound.
There are so many amazing things in this footage, even aside from the sheer, awe-inspiring beauty and scale of our planet laid out beneath Baumgartner. He’s getting to see something very few people have seen firsthand, and how lucky are we that we get to share that view in such good quality?
One of the things that struck me in this viewing is the shot from the balloon itself, watching Baumgartner fall away until he’s nothing but a dot, and then not even that. When you consider that by that point he wasn’t even that far into his descent, it really gives you a staggering sense of how (relatively) big our planet is, and, as he points out, how tiny we are. If you’re ever feeling full of yourself, just put this on repeat.
And that uncontrolled spin we mentioned…that’s just damn terrifying. Thankfully, Baumgartner was able to recover, but things could have taken a very bad turn if he hadn’t. Worse, he would have had quite a while to think about it on the way to his sudden stop.
Baumgartner fell 127,852 feet, totaling 4 minutes and 19 seconds in free-fall, and broke several records, including being the first human to break the sound barrier without being inside a vehicle. After all, anybody can go faster than sound the easy way…