Felix Baumgartner recently made a space jump from 13.6 miles up, on his quest to break the world record. Here is a shot of the insanity:
Baumgartner, 42, sponsored by Red Bull, wore a pressurized suit and rode up to his launch point in a capsule called Stratos, on the back of a 100-foot-wide helium balloon. The balloon carried him to 71,581 feet, to where he jumped, and was in a free fall for 3 minutes and 43 seconds, reaching a speed of 364.4 miles per hour. Planes usually fly at about 8-9 miles high, so Baumgartner was up there.
Still, Baumgartner seeks to jump from an altitude of 23 miles (120,000 feet or 37 kilometers), which is close to the edge of the stratosphere. From that height, he would fall for about 5 and a half minutes, and break the sound barrier. After falling at Mach 1 for a while, he would pull his chute at about a mile up, and hit the ground roughly ten minutes later.
The 23 mile jump is set for sometime this summer, and would break the record set my U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger on August 16, 1960. Kittinger jumped from a ballon called the Excelsior III, at 19.47 miles up, or 102,800 feet. Here is a picture of Kittinger's feat:
The captain was technically more of a purist than Baumgartner, lacking the same technology in 1960, kind of like Mt. Everest climbers of old who traversed the summit without oxygen tanks. Still, Baumgartner is insane, and joins the ranks of other dudes in capsules going all over the place.