Skydiving from the Edge of Space [News]

Update 10/15/2012

Felix Baumgartner has done what no other man on Earth (or the skies above it, for that matter) has ever done before: he made the highest and fastest jump in history after ascending from a capsule attached to a helium balloon to an altitude of 128,100 feet. He plummeted to Earth for a 4:20 minute freefall that reached a maximum speed measured at 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24.

Lego Stratos Jump
original post

The Wall Street Journal — An Austrian daredevil plans to break a 52-year-old record for the highest skydive on early Tuesday morning above eastern New Mexico, in a feat that will test the limits of technology and the human body at the edge of space.

Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend to 120,000 feet in a 55-story-tall helium-filled balloon and then jump back to earth.

During the first few minutes of his descent, his free fall is expected to break the speed of sound—about 690 miles per hour in those atmospheric conditions. As air density increases, the speed of his descent will gradually decrease. The 43-year-old will then deploy his parachute, returning to earth hopefully within a few miles of the balloon’s liftoff location.

The previous record for skydiving is held by Joe Kittinger, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who dived from 102,800 feet in 1960. Mr. Kittinger’s jump was part of Air Force testing of a protective suit and whether human bodies could survive in the low-pressure, cold environs of space. Mr. Kittinger is part of the ground team working on Mr. Baumgartner’s flight.

To prepare for the jump, Mr. Baumgartner jumped from 97,146 feet in June, eclipsing the second-highest skydive mark held by Yevgeny Andreyev, a member of the former Soviet Union’s Air Force.

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