Felix Baumgartner’s two year old record for the highest-altitude space jump has been broken – by a 57 year old senior vice president at Google.
The stunning news sees Alan Eustace take to the record books after tumbling from a height of 135,890 feet on Friday, flying past Felix’s record of 128,100 feet by some distance.
A helium balloon packed with 35,000 cubic feet of helium carried the American high-flyer nearly 25 miles above ground before he cut himself loose with the help of small explosives.
While the balloon took almost two hours to get up to the drop point, it took Eustace just 15 minutes to get back to the ground, diving back to Earth at speeds of up to 822mph and passing the speed of sound in the progress.
“It was a wild, wild ride,” he told the New York Times. “I hugged on to the equipment module and tucked my legs and I held my heading.
“It was amazing. Beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I’ve never seen before.”
Mr. Eustace’s jump may not have received the same level of social media coverage as Baumgartner’s Red Bull-backed project, but the story has shocked many – and we imagine it wasn’t the nicest news for poor Felix to discover when he woke up this morning.
Eustace planned the jump in secrecy, working on the project for almost three years without any substantial sponsor backing and using much simpler technology than the gear used by Felix.
In fact, the Google executive wore a space suit that didn’t even have a cooling system, so he had to stay still on his ascent to avoid over-heating. This meant communicating with ground controllers via the movement of legs. As you do.
While Google offered to support the project, Eustace declined for fear that his jump would be seen as a marketing stunt…
It’s also interesting to note that while Eustace does work for Google, the jump was made without the help of the internet giant.
While the company did offer to support the project, Eustace declined for fear that his jump would be seen as a giant marketing stunt – not that that’s how anyone saw Red Bull Stratos of course.
After effectively retiring from his daredevil antics after his 2012 jump from space, it’s unlikely we’ll see Felix back up at the stratosphere trying to reclaim his record, but it will be interesting to see if anyone else takes on the challenge in the foreseeable future.