On Oct. 14, 2012, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from a helium balloon and fell 128,100 feet (24 miles) back to Earth at 843.6 mph. With funding from Red Bull, he broke the sound barrier and set a world record. But now a senior vice president of Google has taken the stunt a step further. On Friday Alan Eustace road a helium balloon 135,890 feet (more than 25 miles) off the ground and jumped.
The dive wasn’t sponsored by Google, though. In fact, the New York Times reports that Eustace declined the company’s offer for help with the jump because he didn’t want it to be a corporate stunt. Eustace also took a much simpler approach to the jump than Baumgartner and the Red Bull team did in 2012. For example, Eustace didn’t use a capsule to protect him during his ascent, and he asked Paragon Space Development, the company that made his suit, to create a pared-down pressure suit that would enable him to breathe pure oxygen during his fall.
The Times describes:
Mr. Eustace planned his jump in the utmost secrecy, working for almost three years with a small group of technologists skilled in spacesuit design, life-support systems, and parachute and balloon technology. He carried modest GoPro cameras aloft, connected to his ground-control center by an off-the-shelf radio. Although Mr. Baumgartner was widely known for death-defying feats, Mr. Eustace describes himself as an engineer first with a deep commitment to teamwork.
Eustace fell farther than Baumgartner but at a slower speed of 822 mph. But he still broke the sound barrier, and observers reported hearing the sonic boom. He also did two backflips before using a parachute to steady himself.
Eustace told the Times, “It was amazing. ... It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.” Sheesh, who hasn’t seen the layers of the atmosphere? Oh right, almost everyone.