Just as Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner readied to make a heart-stopping jump from his Red Bull Stratos capsule as it hovered approximately 128,000 feet above the earth, he saluted to the ground, toward a captive online and television audience and said the following:
“I know the whole world is watching now. And I wish the world could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to get up really high to understand how small you really are. I’m going home now.”
He then stepped off the edge of the capsule and hurtled home, breaking the record for the highest manned balloon flight and the highest skydive, previously set 52 years ago by Air Force pilot Joe Kittinger– who, now at 82 years of age, also served as the capsule communicator for Baumgartner’s flight. Approximately 40 seconds into his freefall, Baumgartner also became the first human to break the speed of sound without assistance from a vehicle.
In addition to these remarkable records, Baumgartner’s flight also broke records on YouTube as the most watched live-stream program ever, with over 8 million people tuned into to see his stunt unfold.
Records aside, the jump also provided valuable data to researchers seeking to improve the durability of space suits for astronauts, and perhaps a new generation of space explorers. NASA’s Bruce Pittman spoke about the future of space flight, including the possibility of space jumps like Baumgartner’s becoming commonplace, in the following event from Maker Faire.