When Air Force pilot Joe Kittinger jumped out of a ballon gondola from 102,800 feet in August 1960, he set four aerospace records which stand to this day. Red Bull and a mad Austrian skydiver are about to break them. And Kittinger is on board.
Red Bull Stratos is the latest high-tech project financed by all those cans of high-caffeine pop we all drink, and this time, they’re aiming for the stars instead of Grand Prix glory—or at least the stratosphere. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, the man who glided across the English Channel in 2003 on carbon fiber wings, will go up to 120,000 feet in a capsule, then make the mother of all jumps. His mentor is 83-year-old Kittinger himself.
The records up for grabs are highest manned ballon flight, highest parachute jump, longest freefall (Baumgartner is projected to drop for five minutes and 30 seconds versus Kittinger’s four minutes) and the big one: breaking the sound barrier without an airplane (Kittinger hit 614 mph).
The project is in its final stages and will be launched from Roswell(!). Given Red Bull’s audacity, one can hope that Baumgartner’s big day in space will be delayed until the 2012 Australian Grand Prix on March 18 and will conclude with a landing in the cockpit of Red Bull Racing’s just-unveiled new Formula One car during the race, which Sebastian Vettel will have ejected from using a rocket in his racing suit, which will take him all the way up to Baumgartner’s vacated balloon. Or something.