Yesterday, Alan Eustace, vice president of Google, broke the skydiving record for the world’s highest parachute jump. The record was previously set by Felix Baumgartner in 2012 but plunging 135,890 feet from the atmosphere while wearing a specialized suit, 57-year-old Eustace set a new record.
Just after dawn yesterday morning, Eustace was lifted up from an abandoned runway at an airport in Roswell, New Mexico while tethered to a high-altitude helium balloon. After reaching the jump point more than 25 miles up in the stratosphere, he spent roughly 30 minutes just taking in the view before making the descent.
Eustace shared that while descending he hugged onto the equipment module tightly, tucked his legs, and held his heading.
The free fall that hurtled Eustace toward the ground at a speed of 822 miles per hour took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Just 90 seconds into the fall, a small sonic boom was set off as the sound barrier was broken. Then around 18,000 feet, he opened his parachute, ultimately landing 70 miles from the point of takeoff.
Even though Eustace topped the previously set record for height, Austrian Baumgartner’s fall hit a greater speed of 843.6 miles per hour at the fastest point.
Once safely back on the ground, Eustace told the New York Times that the experience was amazing and beautiful. He said the darkness of space could be seen, as well as actual layers of the atmosphere.
It took three years of training for Eustace to get ready for yesterday’s free fall. Even though he set a new world record, the fanfare surrounding his jump was relatively moderate compared to the publicity around Baumgartner’s jump. However, aviation experts gave Eustace praise for the amazing accomplishment.
According to Mark Kelly, former astronaut, it is incredibly significant to break an aviation record. Kelly also stated that something like this comes with a tremendous amount of risk and to set a new world record safety speaks volumes for the people involved with the endeavor.
The Paragon Space Development Corporation was responsible for orchestrating Eustace’s jump, which has a solid reputation for leading a variety of projects designed to explore the stratosphere and for some time has been trying to develop a self-contained spaceship that one day could be sold commercially.
Differences in the Two Free Falls
Both free falls were incredible yet different in several ways.
- Baumgartner reached the stratosphere in a capsule rigged with multiple cameras that allowed people back home to watch things in real-time whereas Eustace reached his jump-off point via helium balloon and a GoPro camera strapped onto his suit
- Baumgartner was able to complete several test runs while Eustace took just one shot
- Baumgartner had tremendous financial support from his Red Bull sponsor while all expenses for Eustace’s jump were paid for out of his pocket
- Baumgartner attempted to promote Red Bull whereas Eustace focused on the promotion of future human exploration of the upper atmosphere