Skydiving from Space
Skydiving from space — technically defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale as 62 miles above sea level — isn’t a new concept; daredevils have been working their way up for decades. In 1960, Joseph Kittinger,a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, set a record that held more than 50 years, jumping from a helium balloon at 102,800 feet (20 miles). In 2012, following a widely publicized five-year scientific mission undertaken by Red Bull, Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet (25 miles), also from a helium balloon, successfully breaking Kittinger’s record and becoming the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall, reaching an estimated mach 1.24. Then in 2014, a senior vice president at Google named Alan Eustace wore a specially designed space suit and jumped from a helium balloon over New Mexico at 135,908 feet (26 miles) to nab the world record for both the highest and longest free fall.
Impressive as each of these jumps have been, their launch points are still closer to the Earth than outer space. Each was technically in the stratosphere, the second major layer of the Earth’s atmosphere after the troposphere. The next goal is surely the mesosphere, or about 31 miles above sea level. So far, no known projects are in the works, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. Eustace’s jump, a partnership with Paragon Space Development Corporation three years in the making,was kept secret. Orbital Outfitters, a manufacturer of space suits who broke ground on a new state-of-the-art manufacturing and development facility in Texas late last year, is rumored to be involved in an upcoming record-breaking attempt, but did not comment for this story.
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