Felix Baumgartner Named Nat Geo People’s Choice Adventurer Of The Year

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner has been named the National Geographic People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year following an online poll, which saw more than 55,000 votes cast. Baumgartner edged out nine other Adventurer of the Year candidates that included men and women who have pushed the envelope in terms of exploration and outdoor adventure in the past year.

Baumgartner’s initial inclusion on this list follows his epic skydive from the edge of space last October. The world breathlessly watched on as the 43-year-old rode a specially designed helium balloon to the edge of space, then popped open the hatch and stepped off into nothingness. At that point he was more than 127,000 feet above the Earth’s surface and far higher than any other skydiver had gone before.

During his descent, Baumgartner managed to set several new world’s records, including becoming the first person to break the sound barrier without the use of an aircraft. During his free fall, Felix reached speeds in excess of 844 miles per hour or Mach 1.25. He officially jumped from his balloon at an altitude of 24.2 miles, which is of course a record height as well. He even experienced 25 seconds of weightlessness on the way down, before pulling his ripcord and slowly completing his descent back to Earth.

While Baumgartner was clearly the most well known Adventurer of the Year candidate amongst the general public he still faced stiff competition from a number of outdoor personalities. For instance, ultrarunner Lizzy Hawker isn’t exactly a household name, but she is an absolute legend amongst endurance athletes. Hawker won her fifth Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc trail race, which is grueling 103-mile run through the Alps. Similarly, kayaker Steve Fisher is one of the best paddlers in the world and last year he managed to run the biggest rapids on the planet on the Congo River. Those feats didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention that Baumgartner’s did, but they are impressive nonetheless.

To read Felix’s thoughts on winning this honor, what role adventure has played in his life and much more, check out the Nat Geo interview with the man himself.

[Photo Credit: Red Bull Stratos/Red Bull Content Pool]

Space Jumper Sets Multiple Records In Historic Free Fall

Space jumper
Felix Baumgartner fell into the history books Sunday, jumping to Earth from the stratosphere and making him the first man to break the speed of sound in free fall.

Starting at over 128,000 feet in a helium-filled balloon, 43-year-old Baumgartner’s record comes exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane.

The Austrian skydiving expert also broke records for the highest free fall and the highest manned balloon flight.

Baumgartner spent five years training for the mission, designed to improve our understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.

Skydivers typically jump from an altitude of 12,000 to 14,000 feet and reach a speed of about 115 miles per hour. Baumgartner’s record, when verified, will be about ten times higher and ten times faster.

“It was an incredible up and down today, just like it’s been with the whole project,” a relieved Baumgartner said in a release from Red Bull, the sponsor of the jump.

“First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor,” added Baumgartner. “It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

[Images courtesy Red Bull Stratos]

Live Feed: Watch Felix Baumgartner Make The Highest Skydive In History

Update: October 14th, 2012, 1322: A successful jump! Congratulations to Felix and the Stratos crew!

History is being made this morning in Roswell, New Mexico, as Felix Baumgartner rises quickly through the atmosphere to in a specialized helium balloon.

This is the team’s third attempt after weather conflicts during the week. Mr. Baumgartner plans to break the record for the highest and fastest skydive, rising to an altitude of 120,000 feet before falling from the sky. For the mission he’s been outfitted with a special space suit that will supply oxygen and pressure during the flight, and he’ll wear that throughout the fall.

More than the record for highest skydive is on the line though. If successful, Mr. Baumgartner will be the first human being to cross the sound barrier during free fall, reaching a speed of over 700MPH.

The entire event is being live streamed (with a several second delay) at the above feed, and you can see more details over at the Red Bull Stratos page.

Godspeed, Felix.

Skydiver Prepares To Jump From Edge Of Space

For the past five years, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner has been preparing for the biggest jump of his – or anyone else’s – career. On Monday, October 8, he hopes to climb inside a specially designed capsule that, with the help of a balloon filled with helium, will carry him to the very edge of space. And when he has reached a height of 120,000 feet (About 23 miles!) above the surface of the planet, Baumgartner intends to step out of that capsule and free fall back to Earth. If successful, it’ll be the highest, not to mention the most audacious, skydive in history.

In preparation for his history-making leap, Baumgartner has already completed two practice jumps at lower altitudes. The most recent of those test runs took place back in July when he dove from 96,640 feet. That successful effort paved the way for the final jump next week, which will take place in the skies over New Mexico.

In addition to being the highest skydive in history, this could also be the fastest. Baumgartner expects to hit speeds in excess of 690 mph, which would actually be faster than the speed of sound. In the near vacuum found at the edge of space, he should break the sound barrier in about 30 seconds. After that, he’ll free fall for another five minutes before pulling his ripcord, which will release his parachute and allow him to drift safely back to Earth. The entire jump should last somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes and will be broadcast live on the web at RedBullStratos.com.During his descent, Baumgartner will be wearing a pressure suit that has been specifically designed to protect him from the harsh elements of the upper atmosphere. That suit, which is not unlike something an astronaut would wear, will be vital to his safe return. If it suffers even the slights tear while exiting the capsule or during the high-speed drop, Felix could develop bubbles in his blood stream that could be potentially lethal. This is similar to the danger that scuba divers face when returning to the surface too quickly.

Baumgartner’s team has taken great pains to ensure that he survives this jump. In addition to his main parachute, he also has a second back-up chute that he can use in case of an emergency. If Felix should blackout while making the descent or go into an uncontrollable flat spin, a smaller, third parachute will automatically deploy to help slow his fall and regain control. Hopefully none of those systems will be needed, however, and his main chute will function properly.

Right now, all eyes are on the weather. Conditions are expected to be good for a Monday jump, but if the winds are too high or storms are in the area, it’s possible that Baumgartner will scrub the attempt. With a little luck, however, he should be making his historic jump right on schedule.

[Photo credit: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Stratos]