Felix Baumgartner jumps from the edge of space, breaks the sound barrier

Red Bull

On Sunday, over eight million viewers watched Felix Baumgartner complete his historic free-fall from 128,100 feet above Earth. While it was awesome to watch a human skydive from the edge of space wearing only a spacesuit, here are some numbers to show you how incredible attempt actually was.

The records still need to be made official, but for now Red Bull, which sponsored the Stratos program, claims that Felix reached a speed of 833.9 miles per hour (1342.8 kilometers per hour) or Mach 1.24, making him the first supersonic human in history.

It might sound too crazy to be real, but this wasn't your typical skydive from a plane. If you were to reach terminal velocity—the point at which the force of gravity pulling you down and air resistance slowing you down are in equilibrium—in a regular skydive, you would achieve a maximum speed of about 120 miles per hour. Felix, however, jumped from a much higher altitude where the air is thinner, which allowed him to accelerate faster and reach higher speeds with less air resistance.

If the records come back with an official confirmation, Felix will be the first human ever to break the sound barrier without any mechanical propulsion (like say a jetpack). Felix could also be the new record holder for the highest manned balloon flight, highest free-fall jump, and fastest skydive.

The previous record holder for the world’s highest free-fall was Joseph Kittinger, who is now a part of Red Bull Stratos team. In 1960, Joseph jumped from an altitude of 102,800 feet to test an experimental emergency high-altitude ejection system for US Air Force fighter pilots called Project Excelsior.

Red Bull
Pilot Felix Baumgartner and Technical Project Director Art Thompson.

But the whole thing isn’t just about numbers. To me, this is the first big achievement for humanity since humans landed on the Moon. Sure, we can say putting a big ass robot on Mars is cool, but what really matters is pushing ourselves to where we haven’t gone before.

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