The Red Bull Stratos Mission is a mission teetering on the edge of space. It involves one man, one balloon, and one jump from the edge of space with the goal of breaking the speed of sound. Felix Baumgartner and his team of experts plan to lift him to 120,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump, hurtling towards Earth at supersonic speeds reaching 700 mph. By reaching these speeds, he hopes to be the first human to reach Mach 1 and break the sound barrier during a skydive freefall.
The ramifications of this jump are immense, not just for breaking a record set by Joe Kittinger during his record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960, but to again dare atmospheric limits and provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers. The Stratos team brings together some of the world’s greatest minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication — and even includes retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, whose record Felix looks to beat.
Clearly one of the most insane parts of the jump is to attempt to break the speed of sound. The team have done their calculations, and if they prove to be correct — and Felix can hold his position successfully — he will accelerate from standstill to the speed of sound (approximately 0 mph — 690 mph) in 40 seconds or less. He’ll be wearing a full pressurized spacesuit and helmet to protect him from the freezing temperatures and low air pressure. The air pressure is so low that without protection blood is said to “boil” with vapor bubbles.
While this mission is dangerous, Felix has been jumping from successively higher altitudes to prepare him for this jump. The data his jump collects will provide valuable information to not only test his state-of-the-art spacesuit, but to develop safety procedures for the pilots and astronauts of today and tomorrow — and the space tourists of the future.
While today October 9th was supposed to be the official launch date, the mission was postponed due to weather conditions. Make sure to continually check the Red Bull Stratos website for information on when the mission is due to launch again.
Update 10/14/2012: The Mission has been completed:
Until then, check out some diagrams related to the mission, an awesome interactive created by Red Bull, and videos related to the mission below. At the end, be sure not to miss the video from Joe Kissinger’s 1960 record breaking jump to put into perspective just how far we’ve come in 50 years.
Check out this awesome interactive put together to learn more about the mission timeline here.
Here is Joe Kittinger’s Jump from 1960