Pilot Felix Baumgartner will announce today at 9 a.m. EST his intention to expand the boundaries of aerospace exploration by attempting to become the first person ever to break the speed of sound with the human body.
Baumgartner hopes to ascend in a capsule lifted by a helium balloon to the upper reaches of the stratosphere to at least 120,000 feet and, protected by a full-pressure “space suit,” launch a freefall jump that could exceed Mach 1.0 – more than 690 mph – before parachuting to Earth. If successful, the Red Bull Stratos mission hopes to establish four world records; the data captured by the mission’s world-leading scientists could promise new standards in aerospace safety and enhanced possibilities for human flight.
United States Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Joseph Kittinger, who in 1960 launched a stratospheric jump from 102,800 feet that opened the door for space exploration, and whose records Baumgartner aims to break, introduced the Austrian pilot to media from around the world during a briefing in New York City.
“People have been trying to break my records for fifty years, and many have died in the attempt,” Kittinger said. “But I believe that with our unique assets, an extraordinary mission team, the dedication of Red Bull, and Felix Baumgartner’s outstanding skills, Red Bull Stratos will succeed.”
Kittinger, Baumgartner (best known for being the first person to fly across the English Channel with a carbon wing in 2003), Red Bull Stratos Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Clark and Technical Project Director Art Thompson provided an overview of the mission, which will we will expect to launch in North America with a target launch date in 2010.
“This is truly a step into the unknown. No one can accurately predict how the human body will react in the transition to supersonic speeds,” said Baumgartner. “But we’ve got to find out. Future aerospace programs need a way for pilots and astronauts to bail out at high altitude in case of emergency.”
Clark, who served as a crew surgeon for six Space Shuttle missions, confirmed that data captured from the mission will be shared with the scientific community, and noted that he expects long-awaited medical protocols to be established as a result. He also commented, “I think one of the most profound benefits of Red Bull Stratos is going to be the inspiration for our youth… The kind of stuff Felix is doing is like the early astronauts and cosmonauts.”
Red Bull Stratos has secured specialized technical communications from Riedel Communications that will facilitate the coverage of the Red Bull Stratos mission with a live TV broadcast and live webcast delivered by Microsoft Silverlight. In parallel the mission will also be streamed on mobile platforms through a mobile application powered by Ovi by Nokia. Global broadcaster, the BBC, will produce a special 90-minute documentary, which will air exclusively in the US on the National Geographic Channel and be distributed globally to national broadcasters by BBC Worldwide.
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