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Watching History

What does an AstroBabe do when its raining and miserable outside? Well I put on some tea, wrap myself in a blanket and sit down to watch a man make history! Saturday morning when the skies were dark and dismal here, the sky was clear and calm in Roswell New Mexico, the site of the Red Bull Stratos jump.

There Austrian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team set out to break the world’s free fall record set by American Joe Kittinger. In 1960, Colonel Kintinger floated via hot air balloon to 102,800 feet then jumped, setting a world record for longest sky dive and longest free fall.

I sat glued to the computer screen, watching the two hour ascent, totally amazed. Kittinger was the Cap Com for the mission, providing the only contact between mission control and Baumgartner. He remained in constant contact, taking Felix through the checklist prior to the jump, and helping trouble shoot a problem with his faceplate that jeopardized the mission.

We saw Felix’ mom, nervously watching her son ascend into the history books. I liked her right away! She wore a bright green alien ring on the pinky of her left hand. My kind of gal!

Finally – at 128,100 feet, all systems were go. Felix pressurized his suit, opened the hatch and stepped out onto the platform. I imagined myself up there calmly explaining to mission control that they had to GET ME DOWN! Then he jumped.  He fell through the vacuum, tumbling uncontrollably, nearly losing consciousness. He reached speeds of 800 mph and may have broken the speed of sound.  He gained control, steadied himself and continued to free fall to earth. After 4 minutes and 19 seconds (leaving the free fall record to now 84 year old Kittinger)  he deployed his parachute.

He floated down to the ground and amazingly landed on his feet! Just another jump for him it seemed. He set at least two records that day – highest free fall and highest manned balloon flight. The rest will be determined by examining the data from the fall.

I wonder how it feels to accomplish so much. There are days that I can barely get a meal on the table much less break the speed of sound. I know that I’ve accomplished many things in my life, but how do you top something like that? What do you do next?

I’m going to try to turn the mountain of laundry in my room into a small hill. I’m sure Felix has bigger plans than that (thank goodness!) I can’t wait to find out what they are!

Congratulations Felix!


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