It seems like 2012 is a good year for setting and breaking records; Back in March, James Cameron became the first person to descend all the way to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. In June, Nik Wallenda plans to cross directly over the waterfall at Niagara Falls, and if he succeeds he’ll be the first ever to do so. And this summer, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will attempt an insanely dangerous and thrilling feat; skydiving from space.
It’s been done before, but never to this extent; Baumgartner plans to jump 120,000 feet, 18,000 feet higher than the previous jump in 1960, which was made by Joe Kittenger. Kittenger has been training with Baumgartner for the event, preparing him with test jumps and getting him physically ready.
Jumping from such an elevated altitude comes with major risks; first and foremost, the blood could literally boil in the veins as he descends. Baumgartner will have to breathe pure oxygen for at least an hour to prepare his blood cells and remove all the nitrogen from his system, then remain at the height he plans to jump from for three hours to adjust his body to the elevation. If any of those things aren’t done properly, the result would be fatal and very similar to what happens to the human body during deep sea diving. The condition, known as the bends, sends nitrogen bubbles rocketing through the blood in much the same way a soda that has been shaken up will explode.
The skydiver insists he is taking all the precautions, however, and is fully aware of the risks. He will complete the jump in a pressurized suit, as well, which will aid in his safety. While all this may sound a tad insane, Baumgartner is hoping to break two records with one jump; if he succeeds, he’ll be the first person ever to break the sound barrier with a free-fall dive. And that counts for some mighty fine bragging rights.