On October 14, 2012, daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner rode a balloon to the edge of space, climbed out, and jumped. On his way down he broke numerous records: the highest altitude for a manned balloon flight, the highest altitude for a parachute jump, and the greatest free-fall velocity, maxing out at a whopping 843.6 miles per hour, which works out to Mach 1.25. That’s right, he broke the sound barrier using nothing but gravity, no vehicle required. A year later, Red Bull — which sponsored the so-called Red Bull Stratos project — has released more first-person footage from Baumgartner’s ambitious skydive, and it is jaw dropping.
The footage as Baumgartner climbs out of his pod is a stunning view very few have ever seen first hand, with the curve of our beautiful blue marble laid out below him. He doesn’t pause to admire the view long, instead stepping off into the void with none of the second-guessing that would likely paralyze most of us in his situation.
And then things swiftly become terrifying. He slips into such a dizzying spin, and it’s amazing he was able to recover, much less keep from filling his helmet with vomit. Gravity recently made moviegoers queasy with its incredible portrayal of an astronaut spinning uncontrollably after becoming untethered from her spacecraft, but this footage is just as scary and all the more so for being real. Thank god Baumgartner was able to stabilize himself during his long descent, otherwise he would have had a long time to think about his regrets as he hurtled toward the Earth faster than the speed of sound.
On that note, it’s also amazing how long the jump takes. Obviously it’s going to take a while to fall from 30,000 feet, but having that knowledge and actually experiencing it vicariously are two very different things. Between that and the wide expanse of our homeworld stretched out before him, it’s humbling to be reminded just how big our world seems from our tiny point of view…and just how tiny that planet is when compared to the universe beyond it.
All in all, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to take that step off into nothing, but I’m doubly glad Baumgartner did, and that Red Bull shared the footage. It’s a heart-stopping ride.
You can see more footage of Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump below.