Red Bull Stratos

Baumgartner in Skydive Suit

On August 16th 1960, Joseph Kittinger jumped from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet with parachute in tow. This jump set the record for the highest skydive, a record that has stood unchallenged for 52 years.

However, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull are on a mission to break that record by over 17,000 feet.

In 2005, a team of scientists began the project to set a new world record at 120,000 feet, with the help of Baumgartner. This project, nicknamed “Stratos,” hopes to launch a capsule suspended from a helium balloon containing Baumgartner. Once the capsule reaches its maximum altitude Baumgartner will jump out in a specially made pressurized suit. Baumgartner will then free fall for five minutes and thirty seconds before pulling one of his many parachutes. During this descent the weaker gravity at 120,000 feet will reduce friction on Baumgartner’s suit. This reduced friction will allow Baumgartner to break the speed of sound, a feat never before reached without the use of an airplane.

Baumgartner is the ideal candidate for this “space dive,” he has set 5 skydiving and base jumping records, including in 2006 when he became the first person to skydive onto, and base jump off of the Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden.

In addition to Baumgartner, the Stratos team is comprised of various renowned scientists. Jonathan Clark, M.D., six-time space shuttle crew surgeon, signed on as medical director, where he will take on the vital role of protecting Baumgartner from the effects of high altitude. As the team’s life support engineer, Mike Todd is responsible for the equipment that keeps Baumgartner alive as he freefalls through near space: his pressure suit and helmet and their oxygen components.

Todd, expert skydiver and pilot, is more than qualified for this task. For almost thirty years he worked in the High Altitude Life Support and Pressure Suit division of Lockheed.

Stratos is also excited to work alongside Joseph Kittinger, who as well as proving firsthand knowledge about such jumps, will be Mission Control’s primary point of radio contract with Baumgartner during the ascent. The jump will take place in late 2012 in Roswell, New Mexico.