The world of human endeavours is still being forged ahead by the men and women, who with The Right Stuff, went higher, farther, and faster than any other on earth.
On Sunday 14 October 2012, Felix Baumgartner made his historic skydive and set these new records : altitude record for a manned balloon flight, parachute jump from the highest altitude, and the greatest free fall velocity. His free fall velocity, estimated to be 1,342 kilometres per hour (834 mph), exceeded the speed of sound. At the speed of Mach 1.24, Baumgartner achieved and exceeded the supersonic speed and became the first man to break sound barrier with his body. Red Bull’s brand PR and commercial reasons aside, I’d like to share the benefits that resulted from the previous achievements by men and women with The Right Stuff, the daredevils if you like.
It was not so long ago when man first achieved his dream of travelling at a speed greater than that of sound. I could not have known it then, for I was barely a two-month old baby, but I do know now with Google and other search engines. Chuck Yeager, another hero of mine and one with The Right Stuff, was credited with being the first man to break the sound barrier on 14 October 1947. He did it piloting the Bell X-1 the rocket-propelled plane. On 14 October 2012, the 65th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier, Yeager did it again; only this time it was in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, a fighter capable of Mach 2.5 at high altitudes. On this same day, Baumgartner skydived into history, becoming the first man to break the sound barrier without the aid from a jet or rocket-propelled plane.
Yeager’s achievements and the X-1 programmes laid the foundations upon which flight researches were conducted and the US space programme in the 1960s flourished, as well as providing invaluable flight data for US fighter aircraft designs, at least up to the 20th century. Going back to 1912, fewer than ten years after the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, made their successful first flight, Franz Reichelt jumped from the first deck of the Eiffel Tower to test his invention, the wearable coat parachute. He died, end game! Had it not for him wanting to develop a parachute for aviators to survive a fall should they be forced to leave their aircraft, there may not be Baumgartner’s historic skydive. The parachute is a crucial component of an ejection seatdesigned for a pilot to be ejected safely out of his aircraft during an emergency.
In August 1960, Joseph Kittinger jumped from 102,800 feet (31,300 m) or nearly 19.5 miles up and reached 614 mph (988 kph ) on the way down— a record that stood until Baumgartner’s jump on Sunday. Imagine the equipment he had then and the other prevailing operational support 52 long years ago! I think he is another one brave soul with The Right Stuff, not just a daredevil out for stunts.
Imagine the wealth of new information and data that Baumgartner’s dive will add to those that will be unravelled by Kittinger’s historic dive. For the latter, it was a crucial time when the US was trailing the USSR in the space race and the Cold War was intensifying.
Now, in our post-Cold War age and when private spaceflight and commercial space travel are becoming a reality, new knowledge about the punishing effects of extreme speed and altitude on the human body must surely advance the development of improved spacesuits, emergency escape systems, training procedures and emergency medical treatment amongst the myriad of issues that need to be resolved before we can buy a ticket to see what Baumgartner and the others saw in the fringes of space.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world – Lord Tennyson. RetireDoWhat.com