Free-fall from stratosphere, live now

The Red Bull Stratos attempt is happening now. Above, an embed of the live stream. 7 weird but magical words: Red Bull Mission Control Roswell New Mexico! Expert parachuter Felix Baumgartner, best known for completing an unprecedented freefall flight across the English Channel using a carbon wing, will be the man who fell to earth.

Red Bull Stratos is a mission to the edge of space that will try to surpass human limits that have existed for more than 50 years. Supported by a team of experts, Felix Baumgartner will undertake a stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet / 36,576 meters and make a record-breaking freefall jump in the attempt to become the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall (an estimated 690 miles / 1,110 kilometers per hour), while delivering valuable data for medical and scientific advancement.

Status updates on Twitter. More about the mission here.


  1. Mission control is talking about how high he is.    Won’t that affect his record attempt?

    “I was gonna jump from that balloon, but then I got high   (ooo eee ooo).

    …  was about to break the speed of sound, …. but I got high.     (Pu-cuuuk  O yeah.  ..!) ”

    1. He did sound a bit out of it for a while there during the checklist. But between the funny air and the insanity of the mission, that’s not surprising.

  2. Does anyone know whether there is a consolidated audience metre reading available besides YouTube stat counter? Presume this will be web’s largest simulcast …

      1. cheers. I guess we’ll hear all about it soon enough. thanks to the good folk who brought us all those JagerBomb hangovers, and those who had them …

  3. “…while delivering valuable data for medical and scientific advancement.”
    Like what? “See that thing we’re doing? It’s a scientific and medical fact that you probably shouldn’t do that thing.”

    1. Mostly testing out new suits, the effect on the body, that kind of thing. Cheaper and safer to send up a balloon than a rocket to test high altitude bailouts. 

          1.  A crazy guy who had how many millions or billions promised him or his family if and when he survived. You can only imagine the profit margin for Red Bull.

    2.  Part of the valuable data for medical and scientific advancement was to explore ways for astronauts and space tourists to exit their crafts safely in an emergency. Are you freaking kidding me? We’re flying around at about a 30,000 ‘ altitude and what have we got? After all these years? An air bag that drops in your lap and then you’re supposed to bend over and put you head between tour knees. This stunt was nothing more than Evel Kaneval taken to the nth degree and all in the name of Red Bull, a corporate entity that seems to be willing to spend (I can’t even fathom, is it millions or billions) knowing they will make even bigger amounts of money from  this 21st century self advertising death defying feat. This whole scenario is right out of a Don Dellilo novel. Felix didn’t break the free-fall record and I’m not sure if he broke through the sound barrier. Therein lies the next “reason” to attempt it all over again.

      1. Just the delayed and unconvincing response to the instructions and questions. Seemed a bit vague. Perhaps partly explained by what seemed to be a poor communications link with JK. 

        But well done to all. (Cool stunt, but I can’t see a lot of new science here.)

        1. Baumgartner gets claustrophobia inside the suit and helmet – That would make him kinda out-of-it I’d imagine.

    1.  Agreed.  I wonder how much of it was from that initial spinning he was doing while in “space free fall”, where he had no control over his rotation due to lack of air resistance?  He may have blacked out a bit there.

      For that matter, the entire communication process was a bit “out-of-it”.  It seemed like ground control and Felix couldn’t hear each other, and the information was consistently wrong.  He was asking for directions, and they were just giving him erroneous wind direction info.

      He was also falling blind for a while when his visor fogged/iced up, but even when he was doing his pre-fall process he seemed to be freaking out a bit.  Understandably so.

  4. I was curious to know exactly what was meant by “breaking the sound barrier” when you’re at the edge of space, where there’s not much air and sound travels more slowly.  They explained it pretty well at – short answer is that he won’t be going what we usually think of as the speed of sound, 768MPH (mach 1 at full atmospheric pressure), he’ll “only” be going 690 MPH to exceed the speed of sound at 100,000 feet.  That’s still damn fast, of course, but if he could start even higher he could go even slower and still be breaking the sound barrier.  And still end up dead.

    1. Any meaningful discussion of the sound barrier must be done in terms of Mach number, which is your speed relative to the speed of sound at whatever location you’re travelling through.  The goal was to reach Mach 1, not to reach 768 MPH.

      Interesting trivia:

      1.  Not trivia actually, but the speed of sound varies only with temperature, not pressure or density (there’s a constant in there that may change according to the composition of the atmosphere or something…maybe someone smarter will correct me.)

      2.  My version of Trivial Pursuit has a question and answer that define Mach 1 as “the speed of sound at sea level,” which is not only wrong but also manages to completely miss the point of having a Mach number in the first place.

      1. Right, Mach 1 at 100,000 feet is “only” 690 MPH according to the Red Bull site. Interesting to learn that it’s not because of lower pressure, but because of lower temperature. But there must be some point at which pressure comes into it, as you approach vacuum and there just aren’t enough molecules about to bump into each other, and eventually sound doesn’t transmit at all.  Is it a gradual drop off, or some sudden threshold?

    1. Wasn’t it, just like he stepped off a bus or something.

      Quite touching how the previous record holder (Joe Kittenger) was the Capcom, passing of the baton so to speak.

  5. After the week we just witnessed, I wonder who will be the highest bidder when NASA is privatized and parted out:  Red Bull or Space X?  I guess it mostly comes down to who wants the real estate and souvenirs most.  I suppose the graphite in those rocket nozzles is worth something, too.

  6. Pretty cool that he did it on the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s X-1 flight that first reached Mach 1.

        1. Yep.

  7. I’m still confused. Wherever he starts from, he still hits about the same terminal velocity (altered slightly by the weight of the pressure equipment). Chutes to handle that velocity are standard, off-the-shelf items.

    Sure, it’s a long freefall, but I just don’t see why it’s interesting outside of that.  A difference which makes little difference is a little difference.

    If he was going to do a _wingsuit_ jump from that height, I’d be impressed.

    1. Lack of an atmosphere at that altitude means his ability to control his descent are practically nonexistent.  You need the “friction” of a real atmosphere to control yourself.  

      Also, please pick up your wet towel as you leave, please.

    2. No, not the same terminal velocity, regardless of start height. He reached maximum speed high in the atmosphere where the resistance is very low. The density/pressure where he started was only around 0.3% of that at sea level. A jump from a lower altitude could never reach those speeds as the air is too thick.

      (Note, in this case I take terminal velocity to be the speed where he no longer accelerates. I see your point about the chute at lower altitudes once he has slowed significantly)

      1. RIght. And his speed then decreases as atmosphere thickens. Velocity when the chute opens should be about what it would be in any other jump.

        Control is irrelevant until you reach a low enough altitude that you are thinking about landing. If you’re talking about landing in a precise location, OK, the possible error goes up with time of flight — but given a steerable chute popped at a reasonable time, and a GPS, I would still expect landing not far from target. It’s a well understood system, and the additional height is fun but not meaningful.

        Sorry about the wet blanket, but I calls hype. It’s a nice stunt, but it’s a stunt and not an inherently interesting one.

        (Which also addresses the walk-away landing. That too is standard with a modern parawing.)

  8. The thought occurred to me that the Red Bull brand carries far more legitimacy for this endeavor than you’d expect.  It’s fucking caffeinated sugar water, after all.   Would this stunt have been nearly as seriously if the sponsor had been Mountain Dew instead?

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