Skip

Longer, Farther, Faster
May 24, 2008 12:47 PM   Subscribe

The highest recorded skydive was performed in 1960 by Joe Kittinger from 102,800 feet. That record may not stand any longer. After twenty years of planning and attempts, almost twenty million dollars, and a two hour ascent on May 26th, Michel Fournier, wearing only space suit and parachute, will step out of the gondola of a 650 foot helium balloon at 130,000 feet.... The Great Leap.

The original launch date was May 25. It has been postponed until Monday; there may be further delays. Information is available on The Great Leap website.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth (29 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kittinger expanded the limited potential of the human race; will Fournier do the same?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2008


Kittinger expanded the limited potential of the human race

Say what?
posted by Dasein at 12:56 PM on May 24, 2008


The article states that Fournier will experience weightlessness. He's going straight up and straight back down again (more or less). How's that possible? And if it were possible, why would be fall back down again?
posted by roue at 1:05 PM on May 24, 2008


Don't all skydivers experience weightlessness, while in freefall?
posted by bashos_frog at 1:06 PM on May 24, 2008


Kittinger's feat previously discussed here and here, with videos.
posted by googly at 1:20 PM on May 24, 2008


Weightlessness is just freefall without air resistance. At those altitudes, there's not enough air to feel the freefall (or to breathe).
posted by Jairus at 1:29 PM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


On D-day, weather probes will give the last-minute data to determine the exact trajectory of the stratospheric balloon that will carry Michel FOURNIER skywards.
This global event, widely reported by the world media, will be shown around the planet.


D-day? Seriously?

When I heard that Bell&Ross will sponsor this, I thought it was a joke. It's like spending 20 million dollars to lug a step ladder to the top of the Everest, so you can say you've climbed higher than any man alive.

This project simulates a full-scale rescue of a team of astronauts after reaching a critical high altitude

except a team of astronauts will be reentering the atmosphere at about 8km/sec, not accelerating from 0.

Studies of the new questions posed by this world premiere event, such as the issue of how to protect the skydiver from the “bang” of breaking the sound barrier... .

Yeah, and what did they come up with? I'd think the best way to protect this dude from "the bang" is to tell him that this world premiere event has been done a long time ago and he should stick to yoga or something.
posted by c13 at 1:32 PM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kittinger's leap was used beautifully in this Boards of Canada video.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:34 PM on May 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Rick Tumlinson and Jonathan Clark (whose wife died in the shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003) are developing a suit for a similar jump next year. Their jump was going to be from only 120,000 feet. If Michel Fournier is successful, I wonder if they will try for an even higher jump.
posted by eye of newt at 1:43 PM on May 24, 2008


I have always wanted to skydive from space and land in Las Vegas, strip off the spacesuit to reveal a tuxedo and proceed into a casino and bet 10k on black in roulette and just walk away before the ball stops.
posted by wolfewarrior at 3:15 PM on May 24, 2008 [7 favorites]


I hate to say it, but with his current record only being in the 30k feet range, this is going to be exponentially riskier than Kittinger's jump. Best of luck to him, although it would've been wiser to try 60k, then 103k feet before attempting 130k. Hitting the upper atmosphere at 1000mph wearing nothing but a space suit is going to be quite a feat.
posted by samsara at 3:39 PM on May 24, 2008


Which seems to me, wolfewarrior, the only reason to pull such a stunt. Go for it!
posted by nax at 3:40 PM on May 24, 2008


Michel Fournier, wearing only space suit and parachute, will step out of the gondola of a 650 foot helium balloon at 130,000 feet

It would be more impressive if he did it with just the space suit. Or a space suit and a comically large anvil.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:26 PM on May 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of that story from The Right Stuff about Chuck Yeager when he was flying the X1 (or a prototype, don't remember), trying to see if you could use an airplane to get to space. The plane was basically a jet engine with a cockpit on top, with attitude jets on the nose so that when the atmosphere was too thin for the aerodynamics of the plane to keep it nose-forward, Yeager could adjust.

He gets up to 120,000ft (or so), officially into outer space, and the plane starts coming back down— belly-forward, not nose-, because at the peak of the trajectory there wasn't enough atmosphere. But by the time Yeager tries to use the attitude jets, he's down too low and they don't work. So now the plane is falling with its nose up, and as it gets lower it goes into a flat spin. Yeager's falling more than twenty miles, and figures that he needs to get the nose forward, so he pops the drag chutes. The rear of the plane goes up, the nose points down, and he figures the situation is fixed. He cuts the chutes and immediately the nose goes back up and the plane goes back into a flat spin. Yeager figures that he's out of options and bails out— but the construction of the plane was so basic that part of the fuel compartment comes off with his seat. Mid-air, Yeager watches his seat, dripping jet fuel, rise up above his head right before his parachute opens. The parachute hits the seat, the seat continues to fall and hits Yeager in the facemask, breaking the mask and getting burning jet fuel on his face. He uses his hand to scoop the burning fuel off his face, catching his hand on fire. He manages to land in the Nevada desert, a few miles from the test runway. Some young kid working at the base sees the chute going down and drives a jeep over to pick up Yeager.

Meanwhile Yeager is on the ground and pulls his burnt glove off his injured hand— part of the cooked flesh of his hand comes off with it. As the kid pulls up in the jeep, Yeager is folding up his parachute, one-handed. The kid passes out.

All of which is why, Tom Wolfe indicates, every commercial airline pilot today does a version of Chuck Yeager's flat no-worries West Virginia drawl.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:49 PM on May 24, 2008 [19 favorites]


So, forgive my lack of scientific knowledge, but what's the risk of him burning up, like other objects that come into our atmosphere. He's going 1000mph and then he hits the atmosphere? Is he just going to be a lump of coal the size of a chihuahua's head when he finally gets back down? Someone explain, please.
posted by Lukenlogs at 5:05 PM on May 24, 2008


So, forgive my lack of scientific knowledge, but what's the risk of him burning up, like other objects that come into our atmosphere. He's going 1000mph and then he hits the atmosphere? Is he just going to be a lump of coal the size of a chihuahua's head when he finally gets back down? Someone explain, please.

Other objects that hit the atmosphere and burn up (old satellites, meteorites, etc) are commonly going way, way faster than 1,000mph, and so generate a lot more heat.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:
"Meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere from outer space every day, usually travelling at a speed of more than 10 kilometres per second (6 miles/sec or 21,600 mph)."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:37 PM on May 24, 2008


a 650 foot helium balloon

Damn, there goes my kid's birthday party this year. Now at least I can blame it on someone.
posted by not_on_display at 7:34 PM on May 24, 2008


It's not online but Burkhard Bilger wrote a piece about him for the New Yorker in August last year. It's a very interesting profile of Fournier.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:31 PM on May 24, 2008


Doesn't everyone realise that the real star in this amazing story is the wide-open plains of Saskatchewan?
posted by damclean2 at 1:22 AM on May 25, 2008


Let him jump without a parachute and hope his friends catch him, then I'll be impressed.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:36 AM on May 25, 2008


People would totally catch him, thinking he was a dummy. Because, hey, free dummy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:48 AM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


I always thought David Bowie held that record.
posted by malocchio at 9:21 AM on May 25, 2008


Yikes. All this time and I had the incorrect link.

Here is my post again:

Rick Tumlinson and Jonathan Clark (whose wife died in the shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003) are developing a suit for a similar jump next year. Their jump was going to be from only 120,000 feet. If Michel Fournier is successful, I wonder if they will try for an even higher jump.
posted by eye of newt at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2008


If God had intended for us to jump out of airplanes and hot air balloons he woulda given us barfbags.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:19 AM on May 25, 2008


I love that this is taking place in North Battleford (my grandmother's hometown). Ain't much happening in North Battleford, usually. Thanks for posting this...I always like reading about/watching Kittenger's jump.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:31 AM on May 25, 2008


Postponed again until Tuesday, May 27th.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:42 PM on May 26, 2008


Whoops.
posted by paulsc at 5:54 AM on May 27, 2008


I wouldn't want to be the guy who was in charge of clipping the balloon to the gondola, given this morning's epic fail.
posted by scruss at 10:47 AM on May 27, 2008


Geronimooo!
posted by Pollomacho at 10:55 AM on May 27, 2008


« Older "Orientalism" and its Discontents   |   Fifty Thousand Shirts Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post