Were you one of the 8 million people who tuned in to YouTube yesterday to watch Felix Baumgartner jump from a tin can 128,000ft above the earth?
If not, take 14 minutes out of your day and watch this replay. It’s worth it, I promise.
I saw it by accident.
We’d had visitors all afternoon, so I hadn’t been on the computer which is my usual heads up if something exciting is happening. I’d heard of the Redbull Stratos mission but only in passing. I wasn’t sure what it was all about until it came up all over my Facebook timeline. This man was going to jump out of a balloon over 24 miles above new Mexico, and attempt to break 4 world records; highest skydive, fastest free fall, longest free fall and first skydiver to break the sound barrier. He was obviously certifiable.
I quickly clicked through and was greeted by the sight of Felix geared up in his capsule, about 80 000 feet in the air. The helium balloon taking him up looked like it wasn’t properly inflated to me but as he got higher it changed shape from tall and thin, to short and wide. Just before he jumped, it was so taut that it looked in danger of popping.
When I tuned in, they were having some problems with his visor fogging up and there was some talk on twitter that they might abort the mission; I wondered how they would get him down. But when I came 10 minutes later, the stuntman was still ascending. He was at just over 100 000 feet when I showed my husband who knew much more about it than I had.
‘The video is on a 20 second delay’, he explained. ‘Just in case it all goes wrong…’ as he started watching on his iPad.
By the time Felix was at 127 000 feet, the ground crew was running through a 34 point check list with him. He didn’t seem very responsive to me, as he had to be asked to do some things 2-3 times but no one seemed unduly worried. Then the capsule door opened.
At this point we made the kids turn off the TV and come and watch. They had no idea what was going on, so we gave them a quick rundown. They gasped in horror. DD1 was not overly optimistic, ‘ he’s going to die, he’s going to die’, she wailed. I asked them if they would like to do something thing like that when they grow up. Their answer was an unanimous NO! I think it’s safe to say I will never be in the position that Felix’s mother was, watching my child risk life and limb in an attempt to break a 50 year old world record.
We were all glued to the screen, as this brave/ insane man stepped out onto the tiny platform and looked down at the earth. He was so high up my usual stomach churning terror of heights didn’t really kick in with that view. Felix’s specially designed suit made him look like the Michelin man as he paused for a few minutes, gave a short speech, a cheery wave then dived off the top step to start his descent.
Everyone held their breath, even twitter was relatively quiet, as we watched a small white dot tumble through the atmosphere for 1 1/2 minutes. We could hear him breathing, and some words but things were a little jumbled. Then he managed to stabilise himself in free fall and almost 3 minutes later he deployed his parachute.
From then on, it was plain sailing really. I expected him to be barely concious when he came back down, but it was obvious he was controlling his parachute effectively as he descended and he literally stepped back down to earth.
His mother looked so, so relieved when he was safely down. I really felt for her. He’s a 40 year old man so can obviously do what he likes, but I wonder what he was like as a toddler. Was there ever a clue that he might try the kind of mad stunts he is attempting now?
He didn’t break all of his records he attempted: the previous 50 year old record for the longest free fall still stands for now.
They say 3 out of 4 isn’t bad, but I get the feeling that he will find a way to make another attempt on this record very soon.