Just a little over two years since Felix Baumgartner broke USAF Colonel Joseph Kittinger’s stratospheric jump record, Alan Eustace from Google has independently smashed the high altitude skydiving record again. This brings home to Silicon Valley a record that might stand for a while. Eustace took a minimalist approach to the jump. His setup involved a helium filled balloon and just him hanging from the balloon in a spacesuit. Pure and simple, this permitted his system to reach 135,890 feet above the Earth, over 41 kilometers altitude, exceeding Baumgartner’s record by 7000 feet.
The simple design of his balloon launch might remind one of a bungy jump. This one maxed out at 822 mph and created a sonic boom. How can anyone break his record now? Can someone rise to a higher altitude? What is next for the Google high flyers? Will Baumgartner take this as a challenge to retake the record?
The 57 year old Alan Eustace is a Senior Vice President at Google in its Knowledge department. He is a licensed pilot but not known for undertaking extraordinary feats of daredevil. Eustace grew up in Florida and recalls that his childhood was filled with trips to Cape Canaveral for NASA launches. Not a spur of the moment undertaking, Eustace had dreamt of accomplishing this feat and record for some time.
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This is the third successful balloon skydiving jump from over 100,000 feet. All three have been accomplished from Roswell, New Mexico. Kittinger’s was in 1961, Baumgartner in 2012, and now Eustace in 2014. A fourth jump was undertaken in 1966 from a height of 123,000 feet but ended in failure and the death of the skydiver, Nicholas Piantanida.
The trip to the upper heights of the atmosphere took two hours. All this time he was forced to hang very still to avoid over-heating. His spacesuit had minimal ability to cool his body during the ascent. While the stratosphere reaches temperatures of 100 below zero, the atmosphere is exceedingly thin and body heat has no way to radiate away.
Without a capsule like Baumgartner and Kittinger before him, he relied solely on a spacesuit custom built by Paragon Space Development Corporation, a designer of life support devices. The simple design exceeded Baumgartner by over 7000 feet, nearly a mile and a half more. Eustace’s new record is approaching the maximum that has ever been achieved by any lighter than air craft, manned or unmanned.
The unmanned high altitude record for balloon flight was set in 2002 from Sanriku Balloon Center at Ofunato City, Iwate in Japan. This record stands at 173,900 feet. So there is plenty of room for record breaking but it will require pushing the limits of technology. In this day and age, there are many keen to push technological limits.
Google execs are no strangers to high flying. At Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, just a couple of miles from executive headquarters of Google, a small group of executives utilize a German made Dornier Alpha jet. Collaboratively with NASA Ames, the jet is flown by the execs and other experienced pilots to study the upper atmosphere and quite possibly to take in the views around the San Francisco bay area. They are often seen making touch n’ go’s at Moffett to maintain skills and certification. Google, the corporation, clearly showed its interest in space applications with the purchase of Skybox, a microsatellite builder, in June of this year for a reported $500 million.
11 Replies to “Google Exec Hands Silicon Valley the Stratospheric Jump Record”
Congratulations, Alan Eustace. And the first man to break the sound barrier and create a sonic boom no less. May your record stand for many years.
He’s by no mean the first to break the sound barrier–Baumgartner accomplished that before him.
Also, I wonder this was kept hush-hush until after the event. To avoid unnecessary press if he he’d failed, perhaps?
I’m not sure how heavy that unmanned payload to 170,000 ft was but my guess is that for a human payload, there is about 15 to 20,000 feet more to go. Paragon or others could rent out suits and there might be many that jump just for the experience rather than exceeding the record.
Did buying yachts and driving Bentleys get boring? I guess this is the ultimate one-ups-manship for the 1%. Rich people throwing money away doing rich things. What a great world we live in. This article has nothing to do with the universe we inhabit, only the universe that some privileges people live in.
Amazing that he found time to fit this in with what must be a very busy schedule at his day job…..
I agree with your sentiment to a degree. Its amazing how much attention this story got. Every news agency around the world ran it high profile for about half a day (which is a long time). But do we really want to have “the idol rich?” Better to have them spending their money and returning it to the economy. Also Eustace and thrill seekers are like movie-stars of past. Americans have always had an interest in the individual that stands out and makes a difference. It often takes a person to start something. Interest in Eustace stories harken back to the American dream – that the individual can make a difference. Also, exploration and the explorer. People can relate to a person/persona much more than to a whole group.
Some people like to do spectacular things.
People with deeper pockets do them bigger and more spectacular.
This is *so* not a surprise, and not a problem.
(I’m sure I’ll hear a list of all the ‘better’ things he ‘could’ do with the money, in three, two, one…)
Point well taken. I do not know if he follows in the footsteps of Buffett or Gates. We all deserve our moments of diversion or contemplation on whatever scale.
Perhaps all top paid execs should be encouraged to try this… and we all vote as to whether they get a parachute 😉
We have to ensure a certain success rate otherwise the FAA will step in. 🙂
Rich or poor it still takes a lot of Guts to make a Stratospheric jump, I say well done Great Job………
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