Supersonic free fall tests spacesuit

2012-10-16 11:26
Felix Baumgartner (AP)

Felix Baumgartner (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Cape Canaveral - Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner's supersonic plunge to Earth from the stratosphere could help determine whether space tourists should wear spacesuits similar to the one that protected him as he shattered the sound barrier.

"This wasn't just a mild penetration of the sound barrier," Baumgartner's doctor, Jonathan Clark, said on Monday as the skydiver and his crew celebrated Sunday's record-breaking dive from about 39km up.

"It was Mach 1.24. Our ground recovery teams on four different locations heard the sonic boom," said Clark, a former high-altitude military parachutist and Nasa doctor who worked on escape systems for space shuttle astronauts.

Baumgartner jumped from an altitude of 39 044m over Roswell, New Mexico, reaching a peak speed of about 1 342.8km/h. The speed of sound at that altitude is about 1 110km/h.

His goal was to break records - highest sky dive, fastest free fall, biggest balloon to carry a person into the sky - but the feat was closely followed by doctors, engineers and scientists working to make spaceflight and high-altitude aircraft more survivable in accidents.

Space tourists


Clark knows the dangers firsthand. He lost his wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, when the damaged shuttle Columbia broke apart more than 61 173m above ground on 1 February 2003.

Before that, Clark served on a team that investigated the 1986 shuttle Challenger accident, another space disaster that claimed the lives of seven crew members.

Among those interested in data collected during Baumgartner's free fall are Nasa doctors and engineers, companies developing space taxis and the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees the fledgling commercial spaceflight industry and is deciding whether spacesuits should be mandatory for space tourists.

During his sky dive, Baumgartner wore a specially made suit similar to the orange pressurised flight suits that space shuttle astronauts began using after the Challenger disaster.

Until Baumgartner's jump, the suits had never been tested in supersonic flight or certified beyond 30 480m, the altitude that previous free-fall record holder Joe Kittinger reached in 1960.

"Felix demonstrated that you can penetrate the sound barrier," Clark said. "He didn't just go transonic, he went supersonic. Going Mach 1.24 is incredible. That is so much further beyond any limit of human endurance. It's just amazing."

"If you had a breakup of a spacecraft during launch and got lofted to 130 000 feet [39 624m] and got out, you could survive and go through the sound barrier. Maybe it wouldn't be pretty. You might be unstable, but eventually when you got lower you would have more control," Clark said.

Drogue chute

Future space travellers also could have an emergency drogue chute packed on their suits that would automatically deploy.

"In our case, we wanted to go fast, so to break the sound barrier we didn't want to use a drogue chute. But if you had a drogue chute, you would go slower, and you would be much more stable and less likely to go into a flat spin," Clark said.

Sealed inside his pressurized suit, Baumgartner did not feel himself going through the sound barrier, the skydiver told reporters after landing on Sunday.

"It was like swimming without touching the water. I was fighting all the way down to regain control," he said.

"I had a lot of pressure in my head, but I didn't feel like I was passing out. I felt like I could handle it."

Doctors were not sure what blasting through the sound barrier would do to the human body. In addition to going into an uncontrollable spin and possibly losing consciousness or worse, Baumgartner's supersonic body could have triggered dangerous shock waves that may have collided with the force of an explosion.

"I'd love to give a special one-finger salute to all those who said he was going to come apart when he went supersonic," quipped Kittinger, who served as an adviser on the project.

For the next six months or so, Clark and his colleagues will be analysing data from the dive.

"Just the physiologic monitoring system that Felix wore generated 50 million data points," Clark said. "We have a massive amount of data to go through."
Read more on:    felix baumgartner  |  technology  |  space
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Africa
 

Device lets disabled people talk through their nose

A device that converts nose breaths into speech will open new doors for people with Parkinson’s or motor neuron disease.

 
 

For chic geeks...

It’s THIS easy for someone to steal your ATM pin!
This is why you should install iOS 8
17 photo illusions that look so real
Check out the speed of this robo-cheetah!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may take extra pride in your work today. You have a need to shine and be respected so you may put the extra effort and TLC...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.