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SCIENCE

New Near Space Jump Record!

October 29th, 2014

Alan Eustace right before his freefall from the edge of space. Screen grab courtesy of Atomic Entertainment/Paragon Space Development Corporation

It was just a couple of years ago that we were transfixed in front of our TVs, jaws dropped, that Austria’s Felix Baumgartner was about to skydive from the edge of space.

We saw his amazing view, the breathtaking moment he let go of his capsule’s railing, even the few terrifying moments he spun out of control, and then thankfully his safe landing. We watched him make history . And we had faith that if anyone could do it, it was Fearless Felix with his Born to Fly tattoo, the rugged, highly-trained, world-renowned skydiving, BASE-jumping daredevil (BASE jumping is when you jump from a fixed structure like a building or mountain).

So, it was a bit of a surprise when on Friday night a 57-year old, greyish-haired, glasses-wearing Google Vice President computer scientist broke Felix Baumgartner’s record. Just like that. Another giant leap for mankind.

There was no hoopla surrounding it and no live television event. In fact, Mr. Eustace and his team had been working on this very quietly for the past three years.

Mr. Eustace does have considerable skydiving and aviation experience and his team was highly qualified to make it happen. But there was no fancy capsule to carry him up and no energy drink sponsors. He had a high-tech suit, breathing apparatus, and parachute which are key, and then some simpler devices like GoPro cameras and a store-bought radio to talk to the ground crew.

He was attached to the balloon for 2 1/2 hours as he ascended 135,890 feet, 25 miles up. (Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,100 feet).

Mr. Eustace enjoyed the stunning view for about half an hour. And then he went for it. His free fall was for about 4 1/2 minutes. He broke the sound barrier about 90 seconds in, his top speed clocking at 822 miles per hour.  Mr. Eustace reported that he didn’t hear the sonic boom he created though his crew on the ground did. He made the jump in Nevada.

His records are for the highest jump … and the longest fall.  

As with Mr. Baumgartner, he also did it for science. And Mr. Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos team congratulated Mr. Eustace’s team.

What Mr. Eustace did was still very risky and new, but it shows that being able to study the stratosphere more easily and more affordably is just around the corner. And it has tourist possibilities, as well, sooner than you might think (and your parents might want!).

Would you want to skydive from where space is about to start? 

You can check out Mr. Eustace’s team website with more information about the jump, technology and scientific applications here .

You can also learn more about the science of a free fall here .

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