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If you recall the scene from Star Trek (the more recent edition) when Kirk and Sulu make a jump from space and enter the atmosphere without burning into a crisp, it looks like that imaginary scene has come one step closer to reality.
The famed freefaller, Felix Baumgartner, with the Red Bull Stratos team, will be attempting to break a 52 year-old record for freefalling with a fresh new attempt to jump from 120,000 feet up high. That's 36 kilometres of empty space between Baumgartner and land. If you're an agoraphobe, look away.
This attempt will be the first in the world to break the speed of sound without the protection of a vehicle and will allow Baumgartner to collect useful scientific knowledge, and it will also be the highest skydive and longest freefall ever. In order to do this, Baumgartner will be wearing a specially customised spacesuit designed by the David Clark Company, and it looks surprisingly similar to what the entertainment industry has envisioned in Star Trek. Score one for foresight.
If you wish to follow the Red Bull Stratos team and Baumgartner's story, keep track of the ongoings at www.redbullstratos.com. Information and images are courtesy of Red Bull Stratos team,
Update: We've just heard from Zenith, the watch sponsor of the Stratos program and of Felix Baumgartner, that the jump will be taking place sometime this summer, although dates cannot be as yet confirmed as it is dependent on weather conditions. The mission will be taking place in Roswell, in a press release, due to favourable conditions. "The area is sparsely populated, it has some of the world’s best facilities for balloon launches such as this, and the weather allows several good windows for a successful launch."
The release details some of the expected challenges and achievements the team expects to accomplish. Red Bull Stratos medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark, who was the crew surgeon for six Space Shuttle flights, wants to explore the effects of acceleration to supersonic velocity on humans: “We’ll be setting new standards for aviation. Never before has anyone gone supersonic without being in an aircraft. Red Bull Stratos is testing new equipment and developing the procedures for inhabiting such high altitudes as well as enduring such extreme acceleration. The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists.”
In a simulation, Baumgartner was subjected to some of the conditions that he was expected to face. During the three hour long ascent, during which temperatures plunged to 70 degrees below zero Celsius, he was able to train on the complex steering of the capsule, his exit strategy and potential emergency situations.