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Felix Baumgartner Prepares for Supersonic Skydive Attempt in New Mexico 77

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner has tempted fate with quite a few spectacular skydiving feats; now, he is preparing to be the first man to intentionally exceed the speed of sound by jumping from a balloon instead of staying inside a plane or a rocket. The jump is planned for Tuesday over New Mexico. National Geographic lists some of the various (deadly) things that could go wrong.
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Felix Baumgartner Prepares for Supersonic Skydive Attempt in New Mexico

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    as an austrian who has been spammed the last year with red bull stratos tv channel ads on the various austrian news sites:

    just jump you goddamn corporate whore, i don't care about it or your fucking chemical energy drink.

    • by PNutts ( 199112 )

      just jump you goddamn corporate whore, i don't care about it or your fucking chemical energy drink.

      I'm also not sure of the point of all this. He's slightly beating records set back in the 60's []. Other than "newer stuff" I'm not aware of any new science used for this or any reason why other to sell a caffeine sugar drink. With that said, maybe it's just enough to do better (higher, faster, longer) simliar to land speed records, etc.

      • Uh yeah... it's in the article you didn't read. And Kittinger, who hasn't wanted to help anyone beat his record, is on board for this. He's a Stratos team member and the guy that will be talking to him over the radio.

        And the point is, precisely as you wrote, to beat those records. If it were primarily to sell drinks, they would have spent the money on TV commercials. Though I'm not surprised they're putting logos on his jump suit to get what little publicity they can out of it.

        So he might be the first to

  • Scramble scramble whooosh boom dakkadakkadakka!

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:32PM (#41577363) Homepage

    two ways for the corporate sponsor Red Bull.

    1. A successful jump is completed by felix and he enjoys the limited fame that accompanies such a stunt in the form of advertisement and promotion from his sponsor, Red Bull, who in turn reap most of the reward for the act in the form of increased sales and merchandizing rights.

    2. Felix, moments after crossing the sound barrier, is torn to shreds in what to bystanders appears as a giant explosion of blood and plastic a few thousand feet in the air. The act is recorded but never released, and Red Bull takes neither responsibility nor interest in the outcome as while it may have advanced science, it did not advance revenue for the quarter.

  • He will reach a certain maximum speed on the way down, but the speed of sound is dependent on a number of things [] and he obviously won't be at sea level in 20 C dry air. Will he be going faster than the speed of sound in water or iron? Where he'll jump from, 99% of the atmosphere is below him and there won't even be a sound or gentle push of air resistance. To my limited knowledge and understanding that is definitely not supersonic.

    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:07PM (#41577619) Homepage Journal

      He will be going through air, and if you move through air faster than a sound wave would, there are qualitative changes to your aerodynamics.

      He will be at "terminal velocity", which means the force of air resistance will equal his own weight.

      Considering what happens to the structure of an airplane as it goes transonic, he's taking some interesting chances. Air moving around a body moves at different speeds in different places. When some of it is supersonic and some isn't things are weirder than when you're completely subsonic or completely supersonic.

    • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:38PM (#41577821) Homepage
      He is aiming to exceed 690mph at 100,000 feet, which is the speed of sound at that altitude.
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      He will exceed the speed of sound in the medium he's traveling in. That has never been done before. He'll be supersonic by *every* definition of the word, unless you require that it be done at sea level, in which case nobody could survive supersonic, as the water would kill you when you hit it at 700 mph.
      • Except if they shoot you out of a cannon horizontally.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          How long is a cannon barrel? Let's be generous and say 100 meters. So, you accelerate from a stop to 340 m/s in 100m. If my napkin math is right (and it often isn't), that's 578 m/s^2 for 100m to reach that speed. 578/9.8 ~ 85g. That'll shoot you, but you'll likely not survive the attempt. And that's not even addressing the issue of the stop at the other end.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            85G? Just put a large bucket at the other end.
  • First man to exceed local speed of sound without a vehicle: Joe Kittinger, 16 August 1960.

    • Kittinger jumped from a height of 31km and reached a top speed of 275m/s. Between sea level and 31km the speed of sound is never less than 290m/s.
      • Kittinger jumped from a height of 31km and reached a top speed of 275m/s

        I'm looking at the "Guinness Book of Aircraft Facts & Feats" ( published 1984 ) and it says Kittinger hit 714 mph. That's 320 m / s.

        Has that claim been adjusted or invalidated since then?

        Genuinely curious.


        • It is a common misconception that Kittinger exceeded the speed of sound during his fall, but this was not the case. He did reach a peak velocity of 614 mph (988 km/h), however, a mark that still stands as the fastest speed ever reached by a human without a vehicle.

          no idea how trustworthy aerospaceweb [] is.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      And I thought that the first person to exceed the speed of sound without a vehicle (as the balloons are vehicles, one must assume the definition to be "while not in one") was a test pilot ejection prior to Chuck. Chuck hold the distinction of the first person to land a plane that traveled above mach1, not the first person to ever travel faster than the speed of sound.
  • How exactly would this be moving faster than the speed of sound? Is he jumping from a non-orbiting object above the earth's atmosphere, and then hitting the stratosphere travelling 1,200 miles an hour or something? He will be going at terminal velocity for that altitude, which is (I guess) faster than the speed of sound at a lower level, but not necessarily faster than sound at where he jumps from.
  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:06PM (#41577613) Homepage Journal

    I've been waiting eleven years for the end of this story. []

  • Has this been done before unintentionally?

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      I've heard of a number of people ejecting at supersonic speeds. A fast sub-sonic aircraft will often exceed the speed of sound in a dive (usually destroying the plane quickly, so often entered into only after some other catastrophic event). And people have ejected at those speeds, some even lived.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, I guess helium gas isn't rare after all? He is, after all, using about 30 million cubic feet of it. Nice use of THAT resource.

    • by Sique ( 173459 )

      Helium gas is not rare in the sense of the word that we have an aboundance of Helium in our atmosphere. In fact, 5.2 ppm of our atmosphere is Helium, which is comparable for instance to the aboundance of Arsenic in the Earth's crust (5.5 ppm). The problem being, that it takes too much energy to extract the Helium from the atmosphere to be an actual resource.

  • What happens to the capsule after he jumps out? Obviously the balloon will pop and then it'll be a streamer behind the capsule as it plummets downward. It'd probably be less than optimal to have that land on your house/car/you. Yes -- the odds are against it but where is it supposed to land? Or does it destruct?

    • Re:Capsule? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by geogob ( 569250 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:51PM (#41577941)

      Like with most balloon payload, the flight train will separate from the balloon. The parachute will open and the gondola (or capsule) will decent at a reasonable speed. Most likely be reused immediately afterwards.

      Balloon flights like these cannot be done anywhere. There are reasons for that. Although it comes down relatively slowly (something around 10 m/s I guess from similar payloads), it can still cause damage. Also, you have a 2 football sized (sorry for the journalistic dimensions) balloon coming down... I wouldn't want to be stuck under that.

      The nice thing is that once the flight train is separated, the impact points of both balloon and gondola are very predictable. Much more than the actual balloon flight itself. Decent is fast, and only little affected by winds at altitude.

      Balloon flights like these (actually not at all like these, but from the balloon type, payload, etc.) are done all the time. Sometimes during stratospheric research campaigns by the dozen. But launches and landings almost always happen in remote desolated areas such as New Mexico, where you can be fairly sure there is nothing but dust in the probable impact zone.

      • by kmahan ( 80459 )

        Interesting -- thanks for the great info!

        Is the return of the capsule basically identical to how Baumgartner comes back? So the same basic landing zone?

        • by geogob ( 569250 )

          That I cannot say. I would think it would be in the same general area if the flight train is cut soon after Baumgartner jumps. They Probably wait until he is landed before cutting, as they can than monitor the decent from the gondola as well (with cameras, or other measuring equipment).

  • by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:49PM (#41577915)

    It's sad to see that even National Geographic now has to tart up the very real risks of this attempt with dramatic bullshit like the first sentence: "the atmosphere above 12 miles, or 63,000 feet (19,200 meters)—known as the Armstrong line (named for Harry George Armstrong, who founded the U.S. Air Force's Department of Space Medicine in 1947)—is so thin that, if not protected, human blood will literally boil. To prevent that, Baumgartner's airtight suit and the capsule around him will be continuously pressurized to create a personal atmosphere that isolates him from the void surrounding him."

    Nonsense. Even if you're in an environment of pure vacuum, your circulatory system is *pressurized*. This is called "blood pressure." Your blood will not boil in space. It will outgas, as dissolved gases in it come out of solution, but that's not boiling; Scuba divers who ascend too rapidly get the bends as N2 leaves solution, but their blood doesn't boil, they don't die. Fluids exposed to atmosphere, like the water on the surface of the eyes and lining the mucous membranes will boil, but not the blood.

    "The smallest crack in this protective layer would cause almost immediate death."

    Again, why tart this up? The guy who holds the current record and who's helping with this jump, Joe Kittinger? He suffered a "crack" in his "protective layer," in one of his gloves. His hand swelled up like a balloon, and it hurt, and he had some bruising/soft tissue damage, but he continued with the mission and his hand returned to normal size when he descended and healed normally.

    Sad to see National Geographic turning into Discover.

    • without commerce, there is no science

      without science, there is no commerce

      learn to be a little more comfortable with the interplay between the two

      you may now spit on me from your ivory tower for even suggesting this (rolls eyes)

      science cannot be debased, because science is not some fundamentalist religion

      there is absolutely nothing wrong with the circus atmosphere, as the this entire event is indeed a circus

      of course the wording is not 100% scientifically accurate. this is not lies and falsehoods like with

      • Me personally, I'm fine with dramatic language to describe the event. But dramatic license, i.e. falsehoods? Give me a fucking break.

        Every single time I've read a debunking of some false, seemingly true, scientific "fact" I used to believe; the truth turned out to be far more interesting. Any science writer who can't convey this to his or her audience should be looking for another job.

        • you want science journalists to magically impart college level science knowledge to their audience in 10 minutes time? you expect the impossible

          in real life you cut corners and dumb things down to preserve interest and excitement, and that's fine. if the person is more interested, they will learn the real truths, just as you describe your own experience. furthermore, if that excitement and interest wasn't preserved by dumbing things down, maybe less people would be interested enough to make the journey to b

    • Fluids exposed to atmosphere, like the water on the surface of the eyes and lining the mucous membranes will boil, but not the blood.

      Even that process is extremely slow. Here's an experience I've had that demonstrates this pretty clearly. Wet the inside of a vacuum flask (i.e., one reinforced with some kind of rubber or plastic so that it doesn't implode hazardously when you evacuate it). Pour out all the water, but leave droplets all over the inside surface. Pump on it with a vacuum pump. It takes *hours*

      • Did you keep those droplets warmed to 37C? Baumgartner's skin will probably be a lot colder than that, but membranes in his mouth and throat will be kept pretty close to internal body temperature.

    • by c++0xFF ( 1758032 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @09:06PM (#41580405)

      Indeed, reading this kind of nonsense makes my blood boil.

      Wait, what?

  • This pilot tells his story of ejecting from an F15 at super sonic speed, his weapons officer did not survive : []
    • It felt like somebody had just hit me with a train. When I went out into the wind-stream, it ripped my helmet right off of my head. Broke all the blood-vessels in my head and face. My head was swollen the size of a basketball, my lips were the size of a cucumber. My left elbow was dislocated and pointed backwards, the only thing holding my leg on was an artery, the vane, the nerve and the skin. The navigator died instantly upon ejection.
      • by Xacid ( 560407 )

        However this is referring to the rapid change from no wind to 800 mph (the pilot's estimate if I heard correctly) of wind smashing his entire body. Pretty sure Felix wont be feeling this. But interesting story nonetheless.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?