NOTES / JOTTINGS:
Spent the night of Sunday the 14th October 2012 anxiously watching the youtube live stream of the Stratos Jump. The live feed occasionally lagging and puttering much like the tenuous long-distance call between the 'jumper' Felix Baumgartner and his main contact at base, Joe Kittinger.
An hour spent glued to the screen ogling the stratospheric balloon's ascent up to 39km above earth, giddy with the usual feelings of awe and connectedness when watching such a spectacle unfold live with the knowledge that millions more are watching the same footage, eager for an outcome. 'Witnessing history' etcetera.
The beautiful high-altitude hot air balloon which when launched was as a long silver tear-drop shaped slither of mercury with long tail and capsule attached, but which after the ascent -and thinning atmosphere- expanded out to its full shape: a plump, completely round sphere. The capsule still dangling below -a speck in comparison- somehow seems much closer to the balloon.
The painstaking and detailed checklist Kittinger walked Baumgartner through and various technical concerns adding to the arising tension. Particularly alarmed by the instruction for Felix to disconnect himself from the 'umbilical' oxygen supply in the capsule and start using his personal oxygen and thusly a little flickering 10 minute counter appearing in the corner of the broadcast indicating the limited supply.
The arresting shot of Felix standing over earth, about to 'bunny hop' out of the stratosphere: the highest attempt at this ever. Further amazed at his bravery and ability to move/function in that situation.
The horrifying, terrifying, free-fall, with the only sound being (as everyone else held their's) Felix's increasingly heavy, crashing, breathing which crackled through the microphone as the long-range thermal camera captured his free-fall. A distant, grainy, glimpse into the terror / amazing sensation he was experiencing... His fall at first steady, his limbs motionless, death-like, then as he entered an uncontrolled spin and started rotating before stabilizing, all the while constantly gaining speed. Seeing the little digital speedometer in the top corner of the screen estimate his speed; which kept increasing; the last few digits a lighting whirr of numbers. Perplexed and amazed that this man was traveling at such an incredible speed in nothing more than a pressurized suit, experiencing the extreme velocity of 1,342.1 km/h.
Transfixed by the poignancy of the stark loneliness of that image; a man, upside down, falling, falling, falling, from this unfathomably dizzying height, for an intensely, seemingly boundless length of time. The tension and fear he might not survive stretching out the 4min 22seconds. The grainy footage of this human form in the vast blue/black depth of sky, his limbs occasionally discernable. Relief when his speed begins to drop and chute is successfully deployed.
Interestingly; the cameras used onboard the capsule and suit had custom pressurized housings filled with nitrogen gas so they could function in the upper atmosphere.