I've been listening to news reports of Felix Baumgartner taking a helium balloon 24 miles up out of the atmosphere above the New Mexico desert. That's three times as high as passenger jets fly. He was in a pressurized capsule going upward and in a space suit. He stepped out of the capsule and let go. He broke the sound barrier, went something like 835+ mph in his descent that had its moments. His clear plastic face bubble went foggy. It's extremely cold up there. Mt Everest at 29,035 feet is snow and ice year round and minimal oxygen. That's only 6 miles up. Four minutes and 20 seconds he was in free fall, sailing, a sky-diver, straight down like a bullet. I heard him say after he'd been through a period of tumbling out of control, he went into a "delta" position with arms back. He said when he stepped out of his capsule what he saw, the earth huge and round, the blue pearl, made him wish everyone could see it. Speaking of the humility he felt looking down at the earth, he said, "Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are." His name at home in Austria is Fearless Felix.
Baumgartner had done this before, once from 15 miles up and the other from 18. Evidently the earlier falls failed to break the sound barrier and he was going for that this time. It's not like he just jumped out of a space ship to see what would happen. He said 7 years went into preparation for this leap into space. On a news report I heard it called a "stunt," and that didn't sound right. A stunt doesn't feel like a big enough word for a 24 mile fall through space, the preparation for getting there in an air-tight capsule, and air-tight suit, the helium balloon, the staff of people doing things like measuring his speed however that is done, high tech details. There was an element of research for NASA, world records to break and especially his own satisfaction. He said when it was over, "I'm going back to LA to chill out for a few days ... will take it easy as hell, trust me." He said he was struggling most of the way down attempting to take control of the fall, which he could not do until air started to thicken.
I can't help but want to congratulate the jumper. This is what he likes to do. I suppose he is something of what we call a daredevil, a guy who risks his life to do something spectacular. This event was spectacular in excess. Something about it caught my attention when I first heard of it on the news, like when Philippe Petite walked the wire between the world trade center towers caught my attention. I have to say, Totally awesome, dude.