Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Can We Go Again? Baumgartner Safe on Earth After Highest Jump Ever.

Felix Baumgartner has done it. In a combination of crazy, genius and courage, the Austrian daredevil set a bunch of world records, including highest manned balloon flight, highest jump, and possibly the first human to break the sound barrier in freefall, though we’re still waiting on confirmation of that.

Update at 2:30 PM PDT: So word has just come that Baumgartner did indeed break the sound barrier. By the numbers, his top speed was Mach 1.24 — or 833.9 miles per hour. He fell from 128,100 feet above sea level. So that makes it official: Baumgartner is the first human being to break the sound barrier without being in some kind of vehicle.

One record Baumgartner appeared to miss, by a good 17 seconds or so, was that of the longest freefall. That record will stay in the hands of Joe Kittinger, who, in 1960, was the last one to attempt this sort of jump, during which he fell for four minutes and 36 seconds.

Baumgartner is now safely on the ground. He and his sponsors, Red Bull and YouTube, set another record: As my colleague Peter Kafka noticed earlier today, they set a record for the most livestreams served up to the world for a single event.

The stream is still going, and well after the jump itself, still had 1.3 million people watching. The next big event is the post-jump press conference. After that will be the video taken from the camera mounted on Baumgartner’s pressure suit, so you can see the jump from his perspective, and then endless mixes and remixes set to music.

There was a moment there where I was waiting for something seemingly trivial to hold up the jump, and I briefly wondered what might happen if Baumgartner suddenly lost his balance and fell from the capsule before he was ready to go.

It reminded me of Bob Einstein’s old Super Dave Osborne comedy sketches from John Byner’s “Bizarre” TV show in the early 1980s. I added one of the better ones below the livestream, which you can watch while you’re waiting for the press conference to start.

Update: Now that the livestream has ended, here’s a 90-second highlight video of the mission.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik