Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumped from his capsule, plummeted to earth, and became the first human to achieve supersonic speeds outside a vehicle. His capsule had reached 24 miles in elevation, beating the former record for highest manned balloon flight, and his jump had attracted one of the largest webcast audiences ever, exceeding more than 8 million views on YouTube.
Baumgartner's jump presented significantly great engineering challenges. His extreme elevation, the equivalent of four Mount Everests stacked atop each other, required a pressurized suit. At Baumgartner's peak altitude the boiling point of water is below 98 degrees, so a breach in his suit would have literally caused his blood to boil. Other dangers included radiation, temperature, decompression, parachute failure, and excessive rotation—if Baumgartner got into an uncontrolled spin in the frictionless upper layers of the atmosphere, the centrifugal force could kill him.
After just 35 seconds of free flight he hit 690 miles per hour, and he was supersonic within a minute. Baumgartner reached a peak speed of 833 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24, before the thicker air of the troposphere began to slow his descent to about 120 mph, and he opened his chute.
The nearly flawless jump ended only 23 miles away from his launch point, and Baumgartner suffered no injuries. His jump will provide new data to help scientists understand how the human body experiences such speeds and elevation, and proves that astronauts can eject from a space capsule at high altitudes and survive.
A Supersonic Human From MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology