Yesterday Felix Baumgartner set several records as he ascended to an altitude of more than 128,000 feet (~24 miles, 40 Km) before stepping off into slightly more than 4 minutes of free fall. Unfortunately he missed breaking the free fall record, but only by about 10-15 seconds. He then landed safely and as he stepped back on the Earth he also stepped into the record books for the highest balloon flight, and highest free fall.
As one who has flown a few balloons with cameras and data loggers to almost that altitude, and as closely as I was following this I somehow missed watching and recording the lift off and first few thousands of feet of ascent. So the slide show below picks up at about 10,000 feet and then follows the ascent and descent with pictures at what I felt were significant or interesting parts. The slides end with a view of the capsule, still at around 80,000 feet, descending with its own parachute. What is not shown is the balloon – which at some time will land somewhere!
Watch for the balloon shape and size to change as the helium expands as air pressure decreases. Also the flight data is displayed at these intervals offering an opportunity for having students (if you are teaching) to tabulate and analyze the data. For example you can see where the ozone layer is, or the effects of passing through the jet stream.
Click here to download my November Scope on the Skies column about Ascent, a high altitude balloon project I was involved with. In the column there also many resources listed that among other things, could help to guide someone interested in flying high altitude balloons.
Click on this link to download a 40 MB zipped file with all of the individual pictures and the video.
This video picks up as Felix opens the door and ends as he kneels momentarily just after a very smooth and controlled parachute landing. During the video you can see where he is tumbling out of control for several seconds; hear his comments about his facemask fogging up; when the parachute opens seconds before he would have broken the free fall record; and then his glide down to landing.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.