Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dear Felix Baumgartner

Dear Felix Baumgartner,

You, sir, are the very definition of a BAMF.

For those of you that don’t know who Mr. Baumgartner is, let me break it down for you: In 1960 Colonel Joseph Kittinger, former command pilot for the USAF (and surviving Vietnam War POW) participated in Project Excelsior which was designed to test the chances of a successful high altitude bail out and what affect they could/would have on the human body. This qualifies him as Felix’s BAMF Father. At the time of Col. Kittinger’s jump there were no fancy pressurized capsules, ultra-accurate sensors, or even energy drinks. Wearing a pressure suit and several layers of clothing that doubled his weight, and having absolutely no idea what would happen to his body at those altitudes and speeds, Colonel Joseph Kittinger stepped out of an open air gondola… and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past. His highest altitude was recorded as 19.47 miles, his free fall lasted for 4 minutes, 36 seconds, and he achieved a speed of ~614 MPH (that’s 9/10ths of mach, donchaknow). He landed safely in the New Mexico desert. That’s pretty amazing, right? Right. So let’s beat that record.

After several cancellations due to unfavorable weather conditions, on October 14th, 2012 at 11:30 EST Felix Baumgartner stepped into a capsule (that was then sealed and pressurized), sat down, and then waited for two hours and thirty eight minutes as his balloon (made out of the same material your dry cleaning bag is, but thinner) carried him past the Armstrong Line and, technically speaking, into space. Space. Dude straight up was in space. I’d like to point out that, 65 years earlier on the same day, Felix’s BAMF grandfather had become the first human to break the sound barrier. The original plan was to jump at 120,000 feet, crush the standing record from Col. Kittinger, and measure every possible body metric you can think of to see what was happening to the human body under these conditions, then deploy chute and float carefully back to Earth. Didn't quite happen like that though. There were some issues, you see, and these issues necessitated a climb of an additional 8,000 feet. Max altitude attained was 24.26 miles. Mr. Baumgartner had some concerns about his visor not heating properly. For you and me, a piece of glass that doesn't heat up properly means we have to get out of our car and scrape the windshield. If Felix’s visor did not heat properly he would have died. Perspective.

After an egress checklist of things to do was completed (this included depressurizing the capsule so he wasn’t blown out into space) Felix Baumgartner was given the okay to open the door. Colonel Kittinger, capsule communicator at mission control, gave one last command, “Start the cameras and our guardian angel will take care of you.” Baumgartner stepped out onto a small ledge on the outside of the capsule (in space) and made a wonderful address:

“I know the whole world is watching now. I wish you could see what I could see. Sometimes you have to be up really high to understand how small you are… I’m coming home now.”

He then jumped. From space. Space.

Achieving a maximum speed of 834.4 MPH (which is Mach 1.24) he had a free fall time of almost four and a half minutes with a free fall distance of 119,846 feet. He was in freefall for a distance of nearly three times the height a commercial jet flies at. Watching the live stream from my phone in the parking lot of Bluegrass Brewing Company (I love you future!) I saw him begin an uncontrolled spin that scared me to the point that I got huge goose bumps all over. Continued unabated the spin could/would have become fatal, but he was able to right the spin, despite not actually having a basis of true direction (he was in space, you see, no air resistance). He radioed to ground control to A.) alert them to his continued status as a living human being and B.) complain that his visor was fogging up, which could have been an early indicator that the visor was, in fact, not heating correctly. It was doing just fine, however, and he deployed his chute soon thereafter. 7 minutes later he landed on his feet, then collapsed to his knees while pumping his fist. I shouted exuberantly, as did the wife. I couldn’t see very well because we had the windows open and some dust flew into both of my eyes, but I'm told he was mobbed by cameramen and a couple of doctors.

Then, because I'm a social media maven, I got online and watched the Twitterverse blow up. Below are some of my favorites:

So, if I buy Coke, they spend my money advertising Coke. But if I buy Red Bull, they launch people to the edge of space and let them jump out? #Sold

Only person with a longer sustained freefall is Lindsay Lohan

#nerdworldproblems The only thing you complain about while plummeting in a spacesuit at 700+MPH is your helmet faceplate fogging up #bamf

That awkward moment when you realize a drink company has a better space program than your country.

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for a complete badass. #stratos

Honorable mention goes to my boy @chuwie for this little gem:
I guess Felix Baumgartner and I do have something in common after all. We both get uncomfortable and pull early.

And, of course,

Obligatory Cat Cameo

You’re amazing, Mr. Baumgartner.


Mr. Attack Resistance

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