Red Bull Stratos Jump: Success! Recap and Photos

Felix Baumgartner gets set to leave the capsule for the Red Bull Stratos jump. Credit: Screen shot of Red Bull video footage

In case you weren’t one of the 7 million-plus live viewers on YouTube, or countless more watching on the Red Bull site, the Red Bull Stratos Jump went about as well as could be hoped for Sunday morning, with Felix Baumgartner free-falling for more than 4 minutes from more than 20 miles up before deploying a parachute and successfully and safely landing back on his feet in the New Mexico desert.

We’ve stitched together some screen shots we took of the live video coverage of the event, where we saw on YouTube a self-reported figure of almost 7.5 million people watching, which has to be an online live viewer record of some sort. YouTube’s blog says the final number is somewhere north of 8 million, which we and others are guessing was the most-viewed live Internet event ever.

Though the jump apparently didn’t set one of the records it set out for — the longest free fall ever, missing by about 20 seconds — that miss may have been a function of just how fast Baumgartner was going, somewhere north of 700 mph according to early figures.

Felix Baumgartner starts his descent.

If you watched, like we did, there were two distincly scary parts: Right before the leap, when Baumgartner sounded dazed and confused while getting ready to leave the capsule (flight command had to tell him twice to remove his air hoses) and during the leap, when even from far away it appeared he was going into a violent spin, one of the things they said pre-jump that could be fatal if uncorrected.

We’re not sure exactly how Baumgartner corrected his spin, but he did, and then floated down to the desert after deploying his chute. Though we had some pre-jump cynicism (it’s still hard for us to justify risking human life for something that is really just a stunt) after it was over I had a different feeling, one of joy for seeing a fellow human being test himself and the limits of our existence. Though the Red Bull folks will play up the event’s contributions to science and space travel, at the end it was just a supremely well done stunt with a happy ending. Nice recipe for marketing success, and we applaud it.

A shot of Baumgartner in free fall -- check out the speed

Chute deployed!

Heading for home

On the ground and happy to be there in one piece.

Looks like USA Today has a good recap. Here’s the full text of the first release from the Red Bull folks:

Red Bull Stratos: Mission Accomplished

Austria’s Felix Baumgartner earned his place in the history books on Sunday after overcoming concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardized the mission. Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km/h (Mach 1.24) jumping from the stratosphere, which when certified will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set several other records* while delivering valuable data for future space exploration.

ROSWELL, New Mexico – After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed Sunday morning a record breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger.

Baumgartner landed safely with his parachute in the desert of New Mexico after jumping out of his space capsule at 39,045 meters and plunging back towards earth, hitting a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20 minute long freefall. Countless millions of people around the world watched his ascent and jump live on television broadcasts and live stream on the Internet. At one point during his freefall Baumgartner appeared to spin rapidly, but he quickly re-gained control and moments later opened his parachute as members of the ground crew cheered and viewers around the world heaved a sigh of relief.

“It was an incredible up and down today, just like it’s been with the whole project,” a relieved Baumgartner said. “First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I’d just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I’d lose consciousness. I didn’t feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We’ll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission that is designed to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.

Baumgartner had endured several weather-related delays before finally lifting off under bright blue skies and calm winds on Sunday morning. The Red Bull Stratos crew watching from Mission Control broke out into spontaneous applause when the balloon lifted off.

* The data on the records set by the jump are preliminary pending confirmation from the authorized governing bodies.


  1. Great writeup in the Guardian about the way Red Bull is changing the rules of sponsorship:


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