Oh btw just beat Baumgartner's skydiving record LOL
October 25, 2014 12:31 AM   Subscribe

Google executive Alan Eustace beats Felix Baumgartner's skydiving record. It took more than two hours to hit an altitude of 135,890 feet (41,419 metres), where he separated himself from the balloon and started plummeting back to Earth. Eustace hit a top speed of 822mph during a freefall that lasted four-and-a-half minutes.

New York Times (contains video clip): For a little over two hours, the balloon ascended at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of more than 25 miles. Mr. Eustace dangled underneath in a specially designed spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system. He returned to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall.

Slate: Eustace fell farther than Baumgartner but at a slower speed of 822 mph. But he still broke the sound barrier, and observers reported hearing the sonic boom. He also did two backflips before using a parachute to steady himself.

Verge: Eustace apparently declined Google's offers to help, seeking to avoid the spectacle and frenzy that surrounded Baumgartner's jump. Instead, he worked quietly for three years on the self-funded project - outside of Google's halls - to make his mark and shatter the altitude record by falling from the stratosphere.

Wikipedia: As a university student, Eustace worked part-time selling popcorn and ice cream in Fantasyland and working on the monorail at Walt Disney World.

Previously on MetaFilter, and also previously on MetaFilter.
posted by Wordshore (38 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
The BBC also have a news item, and a few pictures.
posted by Wordshore at 1:01 AM on October 25, 2014


seeking to avoid the spectacle and frenzy that surrounded Baumgartner's jump

^ Now that's admirable! Otherwise, while I'm happy for his personal experience of the jump, I couldn't care less about these stunts.
posted by fairmettle at 2:38 AM on October 25, 2014


Felix who?
posted by i_have_a_computer at 4:11 AM on October 25, 2014




And before Baumgartner, Kittinger.
posted by Quilford at 4:47 AM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Didn't nail the landing quite as well as Baumgartner did ...
posted by alby at 4:47 AM on October 25, 2014


Didn't nail the landing quite as well as Baumgartner did ...

True. Though I was a bit disappointed that Felix, the (albeit talented) showman that he is, didn't land on a moving motorbike and roar off into the distance.
posted by Wordshore at 4:51 AM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


This was inevitable. As the Rutles themselves said:
Fill their greed with cash
Pay for deed with cash
Can't you read, Bud? Cash! Cash!
Cash is what you need
posted by tommasz at 5:27 AM on October 25, 2014


"...and the best part was that I had WiFi on my way up AND down so I could work during the commute!"
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:50 AM on October 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


I used to work with Alan. Everyone I know who knows him is flabbergasted. He's a very unassuming guy. Not shy or quiet, he's an appropriately forceful and effective engineering manager, but he's not the kind of jackass aggro man you'd expect to pull off a feat like this. He is very careful though, and driven. Apparently he really kept it a secret from the rank and file he works with, too.

I admire the way he did it. Not just the quiet, but the innovative low-infrastructure approach. I'm not sure quite why high altitude skydiving is interesting but if that's the thing that excites you and you've got the money, well, this is a good way to do it.

For some reason I'm reminded of Wayne Rosing, another one of the old senior Google engineering managers. After he left Google he "retired" and built the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Research-quality telescopes all over the world with easy access for citizen science. Neat stuff, but perhaps not as exciting as dropping in from near-space.
posted by Nelson at 7:00 AM on October 25, 2014 [28 favorites]


But still we await news (and, of course, proof) of the first MetaFilter Mod in space...
posted by Wordshore at 8:21 AM on October 25, 2014


4.5 minutes is a loooong time. I can't even imagine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:50 AM on October 25, 2014


I also knew Alan at Google. I was honestly shocked to hear about this. He's a fine guy, but, well, he didn't seem like a daredevil!

And yes, I thought about Wayne Rosing too - he seemed much more like the sort to do this, he was constantly betting some engineering team about some outcome, losing, and then having to do things like "dye his hair pink" or "get a piercing".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:52 AM on October 25, 2014


From the bbc article linked above:
Alan Eustace is Google's senior vice president of knowledge
Now that's a LOL.
posted by yonation at 8:54 AM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes. "Knowledge." The department where you put those useless MBAs you hired that time you came to work high.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2014


Frankly, I'm more interested in the fact that a couple of OG MeFites in this thread are also oldskool Google people.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:59 AM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


"VP of Knowledge" is sort of a goofy title but I suspect the title is meant to reflect all the statistical machine learning stuff he's in charge of. You know; the search engine, the machine translation, etc. It's a pretentious word but if anyone in AI claim to have a meaningful crack at "knowledge", it's Google.

Alan came to Google from DEC WRL. That was one of the great 90s computer systems laboratories along with IBM Research, Xerox PARC, Bell Labs, Sun Labs, HP Labs, and Microsoft Research. (AltaVista came out of a couple of the DEC system labs including WRL.) Part of how Google got to where it is today is realizing they could and should hire all these amazing systems researchers from the slowly collapsing hardware computer business of the 90s. Talent like that only concentrates once a generation.

There's more Googlers on MeFi than you might think. Also more pilots in the Google executive tiers than you'd expect. Alan's got a Cessna Citation type rating, and of course now a lighter-than-air endorsement. There's a surprising number of pilots in the startup world, both young and old. Aviation and computing have an affinity.
posted by Nelson at 9:38 AM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Aviation and computing have an affinity.

I would phrase that as "Money and doing things you've always dreamed of doing have an affinity". I have an affinity for flying, but somehow I forgot to pick up my Cessna. Lots of doctors and financiers I know didn't forget though. *shrug*
posted by tychotesla at 9:49 AM on October 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


There's more Googlers on MeFi than you might think.
posted by Wordshore at 9:55 AM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Didn't Alan also get FCC approval a few years back for some jump from a moving jet or something? Anyway, there are so many contrasts between this jump and Baumartner's it's interesting. Like how Alan only communicated using his leg on the way up.
posted by GuyZero at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2014


> I would phrase that as "Money and doing things you've always dreamed of doing have an affinity".

How sour are those grapes, anyway? You can get and maintain a pilot's licence on a middle-class or tradesman's salary, and fly several times a year.

Me, I'm into yachting. My total expenditure per year, averaged over 8 years, is less than a couple of lattes per day.

Always follow your dream.

( and, congrats to Mr Eustace)
posted by Artful Codger at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not FCC, FAA, I meant FAA.
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 AM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Early this morning, Eustace began his balloon-powered ascent from an abandoned runway in Roswell, New Mexico" - yes, I remember alt.shenanigans.
posted by lagomorphius at 10:16 AM on October 25, 2014


For he's a jolly good fellow which nobody can deny!
posted by bukvich at 11:13 AM on October 25, 2014


Good for him! Life is to be lived with no judging or shaming, if it causes no harm. I wish that we did not condemn so much as ask, "how can we make this available to more folks?" Congrats, from a distance, I envy you that particular silence of falling and letting go.
posted by jadepearl at 12:28 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I went to a stoneware collectors' meeting when Felix was going to make his jump. I watched the ascent and jump live on my phone while my girlfriend admired 100 year old crocks. It really drove home the idea of how far we monkeys have come.

This said, Eh, this has been done. Sure go higher, do it faster, make your splash, but I'm not likely to care or follow the next record break or the one after that or…. I probably won't pay attention again until someone dies.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:33 PM on October 25, 2014


Tenacity, smarts, and proper diligence - and all done without the insufferable hype of the "look at me" types. Would that more wealthy people on earth would model his behavior. Bravo!
posted by Vibrissae at 1:52 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


“I think they’re putting a little lookout tower at the edge of space that the common man can share,” he said.

This quote is from the NYT article and I like its sentiment. Space keeps getting more attainable even with all the cuts to NASA.
posted by bendy at 2:59 PM on October 25, 2014


Space keeps getting more attainable even with all the cuts to NASA.

Not going to skim all the links so I don't know if this was mentioned somewhere, but these folks (who have some interesting credentials) are commercializing the technology developed for this project "for travel and research at the edge of space":
Developed over the course of three years by the world’s leading companies and individuals in life support systems, space suit design, balloon systems, parachutes, and space medicine, the technology used for the StratEx program has opened a new era of human exploration and private travel at the edge of space. [...] The launch and flight systems developed for the program are the safest ever flown and will form the foundation of the technology used for World View Voyager flights.
(fwiw, their history of important milestones in high-altitude ballooning doesn't even mention poor Felix :)
posted by effbot at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really wish we could have a "someone did a cool thing!" thread of this variety that didn't turn in to a "burn the rich!" thread.
posted by emptythought at 4:16 PM on October 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


I apologize for that unconsidered derail and I encourage the mods to delete that and this and any following continuation. I will say that this is a lovely thread otherwise, and it would be lovely to have a middle class or tradesman's wages. At least I have my paper kites.
posted by tychotesla at 4:44 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really wish we could have a "someone did a cool thing!" thread of this variety that didn't turn in to a "burn the rich!" thread.

Meh. A warmed-over Richard Branson stunt like this one is entirely deserving of scorn.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:12 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Metafilter, where lesser websites fail to hate, we find a way!
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 2:01 AM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


> I apologize for that unconsidered derail and I encourage the mods to delete that and this and any following continuation.

Nothing to apologize for. At some point or other I think we all have a low point and resentment for those who seem to have effortless success and an enviable life.

You can have buckets of money, and still be unhappy and accomplish nothing. Good stuff rarely happens without that dream, that goal.

(I'm making myself nauseous. I'll stop now)

> At least I have my paper kites.

Kites are cool.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:56 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is cool but what it makes me really curious about is all the tech that went into it - the difference between his and Baumgarteners jump is what this makes me curious about.

Also, and I feel light shame asking this, like I should know, but what happens to the balloon? No one ever talks about the balloon in these kinds of things - does it just wander up to the moon? Or crash back down into the ocean only to become a suspected sea monster?
posted by From Bklyn at 11:08 AM on October 26, 2014


The options for the balloon are: 1. Controlled descent and recovery (not very likely in general, but maybe for something like this); 2. Pop & fall (the lack of air pressure way up there makes the balloon expand until it can't stretch anymore).
posted by Sys Rq at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Without the spectacle and frenzy, how was I supposed to know this was happening?
posted by malocchio at 10:51 AM on October 27, 2014


This is cool but what it makes me really curious about is all the tech that went into it - the difference between his and Baumgarteners jump is what this makes me curious about.

As one data point, here's Red Bull's page about how fancy their capsule was, designed to protect Baumgartner from the extreme conditions at that height. Eustace didn't use a capsule.
posted by effbot at 12:34 PM on October 27, 2014


« Older No, not 6 minute abs, 7! Seven is the magic number...   |   Welcome to the jungle! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments