A very senior executive of Google has broken Felix Baumgartner’s record for the highest parachute jump in history. Alan Eustace, 57, a senior vice president of Knowledge at Google went airborne by a balloon filled with 35,000 cubic feet of helium – from a deserted airstrip at an airport in New Mexico. An eminent computer scientist, Eustace dropped down faster than the speed of sound and outstripped Baumgartner’s world altitude record set just two years ago by jumping from 135,000 feet.
The spacesuit like the ones used on International Space Station was a self-contained personal system for exploring the stratosphere, with enhancements (to manage descent and landing). Filled with helium – the ballon had an 11M cubic feet capacity. It started at merely 30,000 cubic feet, however, with drop in air pressure will expand to 275 ft across. Ballon was controlled through a ballast and a vent – to manage the ascend. Barely 15 minutes after starting the fall he got back to earth.
‘It was amazing,’ he told the New York Times. ‘It was beautiful.’ ‘You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.’ With the aid of a small explosive device Mr. Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon, and plunged towards the earth at a peak speed of more than 800 miles per hour, triggering a small sonic boom heard by observers on the ground. ‘It was a wild, wild ride,’ he said. ‘I hugged on to the equipment module and tucked my legs and I held my heading.’
Here are the records that Eustace shattered along the way: national record for highest exit altitude; world and national record for free fall under a drogue chute; national record for vertical speed. Furthermore, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft. The epoch-making feat: ‘a near-space dive from a high-altitude balloon at nearly 135,000 feet, was accomplished with the support of Paragon Space Development Corporation and its Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team. Eustace wearing a custom-made pressurized spacesuit, went airborne to his peak altitude through a helium-filled scientific balloon. His dive started at over 135,000 feet – and he remained in free fall for nearly 4.5 minutes before landing safely – nearly 70 miles from his launch point.
THE RECORDS BROKEN
First World Record – Exit Altitude:
Alan blasted off at 07:00 am MDT this morning from Roswell, NM, elevation 3673 MSL. After flying up for 2 hours and 7 minutes (1000 fpm) to a peak ‘float’ altitude of 136,401 feet (an unofficial record for the highest manned balloon flight), he exited at 09:09:51 MDT from an altitude of 135,890 feet (41,420 meters)—setting a new FAI world record.
Second World Record – Vertical Speed:
In freefall, passing 100,000 feet, Alan gained a peak velocity of 822 mph, Mach 1.23 (1321 km/hr.). Compared to that at the same altitude in 2012, Felix Baumgartner was falling at 809 mph and Mach 1.20 . . . however, Felix kept accelerating…. at 91,000 he gained his peak velocity of 843 mph, Mach 1.24. (Compared further, Alan stayed stable, while at the same point in time, Felix was spinning uncontrollably).
Third World Record – Freefall Distance:
After freefalling 4 minutes and 27 seconds Alan deployed his parachute manually (with his stabilizing drogue), opening at an altitude of 12,476 feet. His total freefall distance was 123,414 feet (37,617 meters)—a new FAI World Record. Alan landed safely – and of course, in high spirits. ‘I always asked myself: what if you could devise a system that would let humans explore the stratosphere as easily and safely as they do the ocean?
The goal of StratEx team was to develop a self-contained spacesuit system that enables exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet. The range of applications where this system can be deployed are: in stratospheric science, development of spaceship crew egress and the study of suited aerodynamics above Mach 1.