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.

Red Bull Stratos Jump: Second Time a Charm?

Here we go again. The folks behind the Red Bull Stratos Jump are saying they have a green light for a Sunday morning launch, so if all remains windless in New Mexico the world will get to watch live (on the Internet, at this location) to see if Felix Baumgartner can survive what might be the world’s highest free fall. If all goes well, the YouTube window above will start showing the jump attempt around 5 a.m. Sunday Pacific Time. If not, check the Red Bull site for the live link.

We say might because we are cynics and we know how these things could go; the guy could end up jumping from a lower height, say, and they might still proclaim everything a success. Who knew that the first attempt would be scrubbed because the balloon twisted? What will happen Sunday? Who knows. We will be glued to YouTube however, mostly because of the Internet-ness of the moment. For Felix I hope everything goes alright. In case you haven’t heard of this stunt before, here is what they are trying to do:

Baumgartner needs near wind-less conditions at ground level and clear skies to get his balloon inflated and then aloft. He will ride in a space capsule attached to a 850,000 cubic meter helium balloon to a record-breaking altitude of 36,576 meters (120,000 feet). There the 43-year-old adventurer will jump out into the lifeless stratosphere and attempt to break the sound barrier at speeds near 1,110 km/h during his plunge back to earth.

Red Bull Stratos Jump: Will Conditions Ever Be Right?

If there ever was a deflating event it was Tuesday’s non-launch of the Red Bull Stratos experiment, which purports to use a big balloon to lift daredevil Felix Baumgartner some 20 miles into the sky, a height from which he will attempt the highest free fall ever.

But after being scrubbed Monday the Red Bull crew tried to get Baumgartner off the ground Tuesday — but after some limp inflating of the balloon high winds perked up and the whole thing was called off. Apparently the gusts also twisted the balloon enough to make it structurally unsure, as Red Bull said in a blog post:

As we inflated the balloon and got Felix into the capsule at about 11:42 we experienced gust of wind …that took us to above 22 knots at the peak of the balloon, that caused a spinnaker effect on the balloon billowing, which twists the balloon in the launch arm, 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 launched.”

According to another blog post Wednesday there are some real complicated weather parameters that all need to fall into place for the launch to take place, leading us to wonder if this thing is ever going to happen — or if it ever really was in the first place. There’s a lot of interest in this stunt, as evidenced by the numbers of viewers on the live YouTube channel — which at one point hovered near the one million mark, which has got to be a YouTube record even though nothing was happening.

The non-cynic in us sees the immense amount of marketing money Red Bull has put into this effort and says, yeah, they really plan to do this. And apparently there is a second balloon at the ready, so another launch attempt is possible. But the jaded side of us says — you need to have perfectly still weather in the desert in the fall? Good luck with that. Stay tuned to the Red Bull Stratos page for more launch updates, the site says now that the launch is re-scheduled for 7 a.m. Mountain time this Sunday but this may be one of those things like the Maverick’s surf contest, where they wait for months for big waves that might not happen. We’ll keep watching, so stay tuned here at MSR for the latest when we see it on the Red Bull site.