From WIRED.com, Felix Baumgartner stares out through the atmosphere before he jumps.
A daring, historic event took place miles above the surface of the Earth, where one man leaped from a small capsule and plunged straight down so fast, that he broke the sound barrier! Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver known for skydiving across the English Channel in a specialized flight suit and setting the world record for the lowest base jump ever (95 feet) from the hand of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janiero, took his jumping ability to new heights, literally, when he leaped from an altitude of 127,000 feet…. that is 24 miles! Check out the diagram below from Spiegel Online, breaking down the steps that will happen with the jump.
Courtesy of Geeky Gadgets
He was carried up into the heavens via capsule that was attached to the largest balloon ever made, a 55-story tall specialty designed helium-filled balloon. I bring this up for two reasons. One, because the feats that had to be achieved to accomplish this historic jump were downright amazing, and two, this was very similar to a weather balloon that is used by such organizations as the National Weather Service.
A weather balloon is launched twice a day (usually), both at 00z and 12z, and are used to continuously measure the conditions in the atmosphere as the balloons rise up. Conditions such as temperature, humidity levels and pressure are recorded by an instrument called a radiosonde that is attached to the weather balloon. They bring back vital data that are used in forecasting and developing models, as well as various other tasks. Without the balloons, we would barely be able to forecast beyond a few hours out. They rise up to around 20-25 miles where the lack of pressure that high up, causes the balloon to expand and fall apart, causing its instrument payload to fall back to Earth at speeds of 20-25 mph via a parachute. That is just one reason why a specialized balloon needed to be constructed for Felix.
Felix’s jump required the weather conditions to be just right at the ground in terms of the winds and the precipitation. There had to be very relaxed winds to down right calm conditions while the balloon was inflating so that it didn’t drift away as they were attaching it to the capsule. The winds at Roswell, NM, where the launch was, were between calm to 5 MPH in the morning hours, so things went well. Here is a shortened video from YouTube showing the jump from the capsule and the ride down to Earth: Red Bull Stratos Jump Video
I know the average person wouldn’t be able to do something like Felix, but many people do regular skydive jumps. When I lived in NY, I jumped with a group of fellow meteorologists and colleagues from about 2 miles up in the air. It took us about 10-15 mins to get up to that height and we free-fell for about 1 minute before the shoot was pulled out and then we parachuted down the rest. Here check out my first Skydive Jump back a few years ago.
I wonder, what will be the next feat for Felix? Perhaps a jump from higher up? Regardless, weather will be an important part of his next historic feat!
Enjoy the rest of the day out there and always try to find ways to take a leap into the unknown, no matter what it may be for you.
Addison Green, Meteorologist