By: Joe Avram
One hundred eleven years ago man-kind could barely get off the ground. Now, there is a man that can say he jumped toward earth from the edge of space. Not only that, but he set 5 world records including becoming the first person to break the sound barrier during free fall. On Sunday, I anxiously sat on my couch with my computer on my lap, waiting for a man to get the OK to step out into space. Of all the sporting events I have participated in and watched, nothing has ever been as nerve racking as Sunday afternoon. I watched with over 8 million others around the world as Felix Baumgartner took a leap out of a perfectly good capsule and calmly proclaimed to the world, “I’m going home now.”
I grew up hearing countless stories of what it felt like to see the first man walk on the moon, hear the first news of Sputnik or watch the launch of Apollo 11. It fascinated me how far science and innovation had come and left me wishing I could witness something similar in my lifetime. So now, it feels incredible to have watched a human shatter expectations and move science forward on such a grand stage. To me, the numbers are mind blowing. Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 833.9 mph during his free fall from the edge of space. So, what type of suit could withstand that force and protect the human inside? One created by the US company, David Clark, that has been making suits for astronauts and high-altitude aviators since 1941. Baumgartner’s suit was based on those worn by pilots of high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, but it had never been used in a free fall setting until Baumgartner began testing it. It had four layers consisting Gore-Tex and heat and flame-resistant Nomex. All these layers had to keep him safe, comfortable, and mobile under such extreme conditions. As an engineer, it’s impossible to not be inspired by the innovation that made the jump a success.
In case you missed it, check out the amazing piece of history: