Google Exec Hands Silicon Valley the Stratospheric Jump Record

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?

Balloon preparations for Alan Eustace's record flight at the Roswell airport in the early morning hours of Ocotber 24, 2014. (Credit: Paragon Space Development Corporation)
Balloon preparations for Alan Eustace’s record flight at the Roswell airport in the early morning hours of October 24, 2014. (Credit: Paragon Space Development Corporation)

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.

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.

Eustace as he appeared in the first moments of his ascent. He maintained this posture throughout the 2 hour flight. (Credit: Paragon Space Development Corporation)
Eustace as he appeared in the first moments of his ascent. He maintained this posture throughout the 2 hour flight. (Credit: Paragon Space Development Corporation)

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.

Alan Eustace now joins Google execs in high profile flight. H211 L.L.C. operates a Dornier Alpha Jet, owned and used by Mr. Page, Mr. Brin and the chief executive, Eric Schmidt, since 2007. The Alpha Jet is seen being taxiied on the Moffett field runway in Mountain View, CA. Insets show an Alpha in flight and Hangar One (a former Dirigble hangar from the 1930s) which H211 is planning to refurbish for NASA and to house their fleet of jets including the Alpha. (Credit: U.T./TRR)
Alan Eustace now joins Google execs in high profile flight. H211 L.L.C. operates a Dornier Alpha Jet, owned and used by Mr. Page, Mr. Brin, and the chief executive, Eric Schmidt, since 2007. The Alpha Jet is seen taxiing on the Moffett field tarmac in Mountain View, CA. Insets show an Alpha in flight and Hangar One (a former Dirigible hangar from the 1930s) which H211 is planning to refurbish for NASA and to house their fleet of jets including the Alpha. (Credit: U.T./TRR)

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.

Reference:

Paragon StratEx Team

One Year Later, New POV Video of Baumgartner’s Freefall

A year ago, BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner dove out of a balloon-borne capsule in the stratosphere (not space), 39 kilometers (24 miles) up. It was what I called “part science experiment, part publicity stunt, part life-long ambition,” with Baumgartner attempting to break the speed of sound with his body in a record-setting freefall. He accomplished just that, although many have questioned the usefulness of this “stunt” (read Amy Shira Teitel’s great piece from last year.)

But, in some sense, you gotta admire Baumgartner’s courage.

Red Bull has now released a new full 9.5-minute video of the entire dive, showing several views, including what Baumgartner saw during the dive, along with real-time readouts of his altitude, airspeed, G-force load, heart rate and other data. It’s interesting to watch how he got himself out of the incredible spin he was in, and fun to see how he opened up his visor before hitting the ground.

Here’s what Baumgartner said about the spin in the post-jump press conference last year:

“It started out really good because my exit was perfect, I did exactly what I was supposed to do… It looked like for a second I was going to tumble two more times and then get it under control, but for some reason that spin became so violent over all axis and it was hard to know how to get out of it, because, if you are trapped in a pressurized suit – normally as a skydiver you can feel the air and get direct feedback from the air — but here you are trapped in a suit that is pressurized at 3.5 PSI so you don’t know how to feel the air. It is like swimming without touching the water. And it’s hard because every when time it turns you around you have to figure out what to do. So I was sticking my arm out and it became worse and then I stuck arm out the other side and it became less, so I was fighting all the way down to regain control because I wanted to break the speed of sound. And I hit it. I don’t know how many seconds, but I could feel air was building up and then I hit it.”

Baumgartner Survives Heart-Pounding, Record-Setting Freefall

Felix Baumgartner sinks to his knees and raises his arms after his successful dive from the stratosphere on Oct. 14, 2012. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

Aerospace history was made as Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner set several records during an incredible heart-pounding jump from the stratosphere where he became the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound with just his body. Baumgartner was lifted aloft in a specially made capsule attached to one of the largest helium balloons ever used for human balloon flights. He jumped from approximately 39 km (39,045 meters, 128,100 feet, 24.26 miles) above the Earth, and now has the record for the highest jump, fastest jump and highest human balloon flight. He also broke the speed of sound, hitting an incredible Mach 1.24 or 1,342 km/h (833.9 miles per hour), in his dizzying descent. The previous record holder for three of those records was retired Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, 84, — Baumgartner’s trainer, mentor and CAPCOM for the jump — who relayed words of encouragement throughout the ascent and helped Baumgartner go through his egress checklist. The only record of Kittinger’s that Baumgartner didn’t break was for the longest time in freefall. Baumgartner dropped for 4 minutes 20 seconds.

See a gallery of images below of the jump:

(This article was updated at 1:32 UTC on Oct. 15, 2012 to reflect verified data from Red Bull Stratos).

Baumgartner could be heard breathing heavily, but regularly, as he stepped onto the ledge of the capsule.

Just before he jumped, looking at the view of Earth below, Baumgartner said, “I wish the world could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to go really high to see how small you are.” He then dove feetfirst from the edge of the capsule.

Infrared cameras first picked up a small white dot falling through the sky, and soon the outline of Baumgartner was visible. Then, Baumgartner entered a spin, but he quickly was able to stabilize into a perfect freefall, bringing cheers from the Mission Control team from Red Bull Stratos.

Baumgartner could be heard talking during the entire freefall, but his words couldn’t always be made out. At one point he said his visor was fogging up, which had been a problem for much of the ascent inside the capsule. For some time during the ascent, there was discussion of aborting the jump because of the visor problem. But after much discussion and debate between Baumgartner and his team, the decision was made to go ahead with the jump.

As images appeared of Baumgartner falling under a fully deployed parachute, Kittinger radioed to his protege, “I couldn’t have done it better myself!”

While the goal of the jump was mainly to break records, the Red Bull Stratos team said today’s successful jump was a “big win for science,” as it collected valuable data to help improve safety for space travel and may even help with enabling high altitude bailouts from spacecraft that may be in danger.

Kittinger’s previous records were: Freefall from highest altitude: 31 km; fastest freefall: 988 km/h (614 mph); and longest freefall: 4 minutes 36 seconds, and so Kittinger still holds that record. The previous record for highest manned balloon flight was 34.66 km made by Victor Prather and Malcolm Ross in 1961.

All images are screenshots from the Red Bull Stratos webcast feed.

Screenshot of the webcast feed just minutes before Baumgartner jumped from the capsule.

Looking over Baumgartner’s shoulder inside the capsule as he goes through his checklist before the jump

Joe Kittinger and Felix Baumgartner go through the egress checklist to prepare for the jump.

Baumgartner’s view from the capsule just before he jumped.

Infrared view of Baumgartner during his freefall.

First non-infrared view of Baumgartner under his parachute.

Another view of Baumgartner under his unfurled parachute.

Baumgartner gets closer to the ground.

Baumgartner’s family cheers after they see the parachute has successfully deployed.

Felix Baumgartner’s Record Breaking Jump Attempt

Part science experiment, part publicity stunt, part life-long ambition, the Red Bull Stratos mission features skydiver Felix Baumgartner attempting to break the speed of sound with his body in a record-setting freefall from the stratosphere. Watch live in the feed above. A high-tech capsule that will bring Baumgartner to 36,500 meters (120,000 feet) above Earth, via a stratospheric balloon.

Update: Success! Baumgarter did it, breaking several freefall records! Read our full story, with a full gallery of images from the jump.

Record Breaking Freefall Attempt Won’t Be Until October 14

A disappointed Felix Baumgartner exited his capsule on Oct. 9, 2012 after the flight was aborted due to high winds. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

Windy weather in New Mexico likely won’t improve for a few days, and so the Red Bull Stratos team is targeting Sunday, October 14 for the next try for Felix Baumgartner to attempt a record-breaking freefall where he could break the sound barrier with his body. Meteoroligsts ruled out flights for today, Wednesday, and Thursday. The winds were the problem on Tuesday when the launch of the helium balloon that was to bring Baumarter to 36.5 km was aborted.

“As we inflated the balloon and got Felix into the capsule at about 11:42 a.m., we experienced a gust of wind that took us above 40 km/h at the peak of the balloon,” said Red Bull Stratos Project Director Art Thompson, adding the gust had dangerously twisted the balloon in a way that could have damaged the delicate polyethylene material. “The integrity of the balloon at that point is really unknown and unacceptable to use for manned flight because we were not sure what would happen as we launch. Our biggest problem was the wind at the 230 meters level.”

Wind speeds cannot exceed 5km/h or there is a chance the envelope could tear when the support team tries to release it. “We knew that we only had a small window today which we finally did not hit,” added Thompson.

The 43-year-old extreme jumper said he was surprised by the decision to abort the flight on Tuesday but optimistic he will still get his chance to break the 52-year-old record set by U.S. Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, who jumped from 31.3 km (102,800 ft). Kittinger is working as an adviser for Baumgartmer, and was the CAPCOM during the preparations for Tuesday’s attempt.

“I want this to happen this year,” Baumgartner said. “We’ve made it so far. There’s no turning back. We’re here, we’ve got the helium and we’re good to go. Whether that’s tomorrow or the first day next week, I don’t really care.”

The current schedule shows a 6:30 MDT (12:30 UTC) time for the launch attempt on Oct. 14. Universe Today will post a live feed of the jump on our website.

The partially inflated balloon during the Oct. 9 attempt was tossed around by the wind, forcing an abort to the launch. Credit: Red Bull Stratos

Watch Live: Felix Baumgartner’s Record Breaking Jump Attempt

UPDATE: The launch/jump attempt for Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos mission on October 9 has been aborted due to winds at the launch site in Roswell, New Mexico. At first, there was a 5 hour weather delay, then a radio system malfunction which was fixed, and then the winds became too high. Winds have to relatively benign for the huge balloon to take off. The balloon used for this mission is three times larger than any other human balloon flight.

Felix Baumgartner will leap from nearly 37 km (23 miles, 120,000 feet), attempting to not only break the sound barrier with his body, but also break the record for the longest freefall

We’ll provide updates and post the live video feed for future attempts. The weather for the rest of the week remains “iffy,” however.

Baumgartner in Final Preparations for Supersonic Freefall Attempt on October 9

Skydiver, pilot and BASEjumper Felix Baumgartner will attempt to break the sound barrier in freefall on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, jumping from a capsule lifted by a giant balloon to 36,576 meters (120,000 feet). This is something that Baumgartner has been preparing for over the past five years, but his team says the time period he now finds himself — the last few hours before takeoff — might be the most challenging of all.

“I’ll probably feel the most anxious when I’m trying to sleep in the hours before I start getting ready –when everything’s quiet and it’s just me and my thoughts,” 43-year old Baumgartner admitted. “Once my day begins, I’ll have a lot to do and my mind will have something to focus on.”

The target time for the launch of the balloon and capsule is 12:00 GMT/ 8 am EDT/5 am PDT on October 9. To watch it live, tune into http://youtube.com/redbull or http://redbullstratos.com/

Here’s how Baumgarter is spending the final 24 hours before the jump from the edge of space:

Launch Minus 24 Hours: Baumgartner started the day with a light cardio-based workout, mostly to “relax and loosen up,” according to Red Bull High Performance Director Andy Walshe.

Pilot Felix Baumgartner and girlfriend Nicole Oetl pose for a photograph during the preparations for the flight of the Red Bull Stratos mission in Roswell, New Mexico. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

Minus 18h30: Rest and relaxation. His family has arrived at the New Mexico launch site and he will spend time with them, as well as reading messages of support that have been pouring in from around the world and drawing in his sketchbook – a pastime that he says helps to clear his mind. In the back of his mind he is always reviewing his checklists for the mission, his team says.

Minus 13h30: Baumgartner will join members of the crew for a light early dinner, but the food on his plate will be unique. For at least 24 hours before his jump, he must stick to a low-fiber diet prescribed by the mission’s medical team. It is vital for him to eat only foods that will clear his system quickly, without leaving residue that could create gas: a condition that can cause problems in the low-pressure of the stratosphere because it can expand in the body and cause serious discomfort.

Minus 12h00: Baumgartner will attempt to get to sleep early – before the Sun has even set. But whether he sleeps or tosses and turns all night — like Charles Lindbergh did before his historic flight across the Atlantic in 1920 – only Baumgarter knows.

Minus 4h30: “When I need to be ready, I’m always ready,” Baumgartner often says. And while he will try to sleep as long as possible, he’ll need to rise four to five hours before dawn to be ready for the intense day ahead.

Minus 3h30: Baumgartner will arrive at the launch site, accompanied by his team, which includes Col. Joe Kittinger, whose freefall record Baumgarter is trying to break. Kittinger, a retired Air Force officer, jumped from 31,500 meters (31.5 km, 19.5 miles, 102,000 ft) in 1960. Now 83, Kittinger has been assisting Baumgartner in preparations for the jump.

Minus 4h00: Baumgartner will head to the runway where, as is habitual for the experienced pilot before
every flight, he will conduct a meticulous inspection of the capsule.

Minus 2h30: Baumgartner will undergo a final medical check and a compact, state-of-the-art physiological monitoring system will be strapped to his chest to be worn under his pressure suit throughout the mission.

Minus 2h00: Life Support Engineer Mike Todd will dress Baumgartner in his suit, a painstaking process, and Baumgartnerwill ‘pre-breathe’ oxygen for two hours to eliminate nitrogen from his bloodstream, which could expand dangerously at altitude.

Minus 0h30: Baumgartner will be strapped into his capsule chair to conduct final instrument checks as
directed by Mission Control. Then Capsule Engineer Jon Wells will seal the clear acrylic door. For several more long minutes of anticipation, Baumgartner will await countdown and, finally, launch.

Here’s a video that shows what the ascent and jump might be like:

Source: Red Bull Stratos

Red Bull Stratos Targets Oct. 8 for Record-Setting Freefall Attempt

Felix Baumgarter (center) and the Red Bull Stratos team are ready to attempt a record-setting freefall from the stratosphere. Credit: Red Bull

The countdown is on for Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the stratosphere. Red Bull Stratos reports that the space capsule Baumgartner will used has passed high-altitude simulation testing after it was damaged in July’s final practice jump, and a launch date has been set for October 8 in Roswell, New Mexico.

Baumgartner will leap from the edge of space, attempting to not only break the sound barrier with his body, but also break the record for the longest freefall.

As no one has successfully jumped from this height before, it’s uncertain what the highest supersonic freefall in history will look or feel like. The animated video below, provides a sense of what to expect during the attempt.

“After years of training with my team of dedicated Red Bull Stratos experts, I’ll be going on a journey that no one has ever done,” Baumgartner told Universe Today in 2010 in an email message. “If I succeed, I will be the first person to break the sound barrier, alone. That will be a record for all eternity. As such, a piece of me will become immortal. That excites me.”

43-year-old Baumgartner is hoping to jump from nearly 37 km (23 miles, 120,000 feet) to break the current jump record held by Joe Kittinger a retired Air Force officer, who jumped from 31,500 meters (31.5 km, 19.5 miles, 102,000 ft) in 1960. Now 83, Kittinger is assisting Baumgartner in preparations for the jump.

Baumgartner said he is delighted that “go” has been given for the attempt.

“I feel like a tiger in a cage waiting to get out,” said Baumgartner, a B.A.S.E. jumpers and extreme athletes, who in 2003 became the first person to make a freefall flight across the English Channel with the aid of a carbon wing. He will be flying as fast as speeding bullet during his supersonic journey to Earth.

The Red Bull Stratos team is trying to involve the public as much as possible. They will webcast the freefall attempt, and there’s even a contest to estimate where Baumgartner will land.

Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team have been preparing for years to break the record for highest-altitude jump. The capsule, which at about 1.315 kilograms (2,899 pounds) weighs a little bit more than a VW Beetle, was damaged in a hard landing following Baumgartner’s final test jump from a near-record altitude of 29,610 meters (97,146 feet) in July – during the jump Baumgartner was freefalling at speeds of up to 536 mph / 864 kilometers per hour, or as fast as a commercial airliner. The Austrian landed safely in another part of the New Mexico desert.

Red Bull Stratos says the central aim of the project is to collect valuable data for science that could ultimately help improve the safety of space travel and enable high-altitude escapes from spacecraft. The jump will also attempt to break an assortment of records such as highest speed in freefall, highest jump, highest manned balloon flight and longest freefall.

They are cautiously optimistic about the launch date of October 8, while acknowledging that perfect weather conditions are needed for the delicate 30 million cubic feet / 850.000 cubic meters helium balloon, which is made of plastic that has 1/10th the thickness of a Ziploc bag. Mission meteorologist Don Day confirmed, “Early fall in New Mexico is one of the best times of the year to launch stratospheric balloons.”

Skydiver Baumgartner Takes Test Jump from 30 kilometers

Caption: Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria lands in the desert during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on July 25, 2012. Credit: Red Bull Stratos

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner took a practice jump today, (July 25, 2012) to help him prepare for his leap from the edge of space later this year where he hopes to not only break the sound barrier with his body, but also break the record for the longest freefall. In preparation for his Red Bull Stratos mission, Baumgartner rode his specially-made pressurized capsule via a helium balloon and jumped from an altitude of over 29,455 meters (96,640 feet), falling for 3 minutes, 48 seconds, reaching speeds of 862 km/h (536 mph).

According to Red Bull Stratos team, this is the final milestone before his attempt of jumping from 36,500 meters (120,000 feet), to break the current jump record held by Joe Kittinger a retired Air Force officer – and Baumgartner’s current adviser and mentor — who jumped from 31,500 m (31.5 km, 19.5 miles) in 1960.

Caption: Technical Project Director Art Thompson and Capcom 1 USAF Col Joe Kittinger of the United States welcome Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on July 25, 2012. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

Today’s test launch was twice delayed due to bad weather, but the Red Bull team said they were never discouraged, well aware that even Space Shuttle launches sometimes faced several days of postponement.

“It was a rough couple of days and an exhausting endeavor,” Baumgartner said after the successful landing. “I am now really excited. It has always been a dream of mine. Only one more step to go,”

“It’s hard not to get emotional about today,” said technical project director Art Thompson. “We are just so glad to have Felix back on the ground after a long week with significant weather challenges. The crew did a great job.”

Caption: Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria celebrates after he lands at the desert during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

The balloon took about 90 minutes to reach the desired altitude, and after the freefall, he floated down on his parachute for about eight minutes. Baumgartner landed in the New Mexico desert, just about 15 minutes by helicopter from his launch site at Roswell International Air Center.

Today’s successful test, with a balloon over four times as large as the one that carried Baumgartner for the first test flight in March, provided more insights for the progress of the project and also new data for the benefit of aerospace research, the team said.

Red Bull Stratos did not provide an official date for the record-setting attempt, but only said it is now subject to favorable weather conditions and critical post-jump assessments of the capsule and equipment.

Source: Red Bull Stratos

Supersonic Freefall: What Felix Baumgartner’s 37-km Jump Will be Like

Sometime this summer, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will leap from the edge of space, attempting to not only break the sound barrier with his body, but also break the record for the longest freefall. As no one has successfully jumped from this height before, it’s uncertain what the highest supersonic freefall in history will look or feel like. This animated video put out by the Red Bull Stratos team provides a sense of what to expect during the attempt.

“After years of training with my team of dedicated Red Bull Stratos experts, I’ll be going on a journey that no one has ever done,” Baumgartner told Universe Today in 2010 in an email message. “If I succeed, I will be the first person to break the sound barrier, alone. That will be a record for all eternity. As such, a piece of me will become immortal. That excites me.”

42-year-old Baumgartner is hoping to jump from nearly 37 km (23 miles, 120,000 feet) to break the current jump record held by Joe Kittinger a retired Air Force officer, who jumped from 31,500 meters (31.5 km, 19.5 miles, 102,000 ft) in 1960. Now 83, Kittinger is assisting Baumgartner in preparations for the jump.

There have been several attempts to surpass Kittinger’s record, but none have succeeded, and people have given their lives for the quest. Kittinger’s jump contributed valuable data that provided ground work for spacesuit technology and knowledge about human physiology for the US space program.

Image caption: Felix Baumgartner and life support engineer Mike Todd celebrate after landing of the first manned test flight for the Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico on March 15, 2012. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

If Baumgartner is successful, the Red Bull Stratos mission will break four world records: the altitude record for freefall, the distance record for longest freefall, the speed record for fastest freefall by breaking the speed of sound with the human body, and the altitude record for the highest manned balloon flight.

How fast will Baumgarter need to go to beat the speed of sound? Sound travels at different speeds through the atmosphere (as well as through different mediums), depending on atmospheric density and temperature. For example, at sea level, in average conditions of about 15 degrees C (59 degrees F), sound travels at around 1,223 kph (760 mph). But at higher altitudes, where the air is colder, sound travels more slowly.

Researchers with the Red Bull Stratos mission anticipate Baumgartner could break the sound barrier at about 30,480 meters (100,000 feet) above sea level, in temperatures of -23 to -40 C (-10 to -40 F) where sound travels at about 1,110 kph (690 mph) or roughly 304 meters per second (1,000 feet per second).

So, he’ll have to go faster than those speeds – or Mach 1 — to be supersonic.

While there is no literal “barrier,” the transition to supersonic speeds can cause problems for aircraft as transonic air movement creates disruptive shock waves and turbulence. Data obtained from Chuck Yeager’s first supersonic flight in 1947 allowed for changes in design of supersonic aircraft to avoid problems. Still, some aircraft do experience problems at that point, and going supersonic has been attributed to some air disasters.

And the human body isn’t designed for supersonic speeds.

“Our biggest concern is that we don’t know how a human unencumbered by aircraft is going to transition through this,” said the project’s Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Clark, a flight surgeon for six space shuttle missions (and husband of astronaut Laurel Clark who died in the Columbia disaster in 2003), who has researched numerous aerospace disasters. “But it’s also exactly what we’re hoping to learn, for the benefit of future space flights.”

Documents provided by the Red Bull Stratos mission say that the data obtained from the mission will be shared with the scientific community, and Clark noted that he expects long-awaited medical protocols to be established as a result.

A live webcast of the Red Bull Stratos freefall will air on the Red Bull Stratos website.