Felix Baumgartner's Historic Jump
On Sunday a little bit of history was made as Felix Baumgartner successfully completed a sky-dive from over 128,000 feet. One reader said in the comments box last week that his understanding was that Joe Kittinger had broken the sound barrier during his 1960 dive (which held most of the records broken by Baumgartner) but everywhere I look online consistently says he didn't and Baumgartner was the first one to do it yesterday. According to Wikipedia (not the most reliable, but it cites as a source "Fact Sheets : Excelsior Gondola". National Museum of the USAF.), Kittinger acheived 614 miles per hour, whereas the speed of sound is 761 miles per hour. Baumgartner maxed-out at 834 mph according to Red Bull.
I watched with my family most of his ascent live, but had to leave with the two oldest children for church about 15 minutes before the fateful jump so only my wife got to watch this momentous occasion. Some may think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but having been born in 1980, I haven't been able to "experience" a first in regards to space travel/exploration ever (the first Space Shuttle launch in 1981 doesn't count since I was too young to be aware of it). So I can't help but be excited to see that maybe, just maybe, there is a new age of space exploration on the horizon.
I continue to be fascinated by this next wave of space exploits seems to be at the behest of corporations. Not that exploration by such is without historical precedent: much of my homeland was explored by the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, two fur trading companies (although HBC has moved on to other things). But the thing that makes the Red Bull Stratos programme different is that it was funded by the company purely for the purpose of advertising, rather than profit from the actual exploration (such as acquiring beaver pelts). All in all, the sci fi trope of companies running space may not be so far-fetched since nowadays they literally have more money than governments (is there a government that isn't insanely in debt these days?).
Final thought: I salute Felix Baumgartner's courage. I said last week I didn't know if he was brave or crazy, but he was clearly having second thoughts when he opened up his capsule 40+ km up and still made the jump. One can't help but admire the masculine courage involved there. Here's the video of his jump: