Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Felix Baumgartner: Insanity Never Looked So Good

Sometimes, something happens, and then I want to talk about it, but there's no one to talk to about it, so I just spend days thinking about it, but feel like that's not enough, so then I decide I have to write about it. And that's where you come in. Because today, I'm gonna talk about Felix. Felix Baumgartner.

Top Gun flashbacks, right?

You're welcome.

See, this daredevil? Waaayyy sexier than Steve-O.
Just sayin'.

Now, Felix has been around for a LONG time. He's spent the past 10 years jumping illegally off of all sorts of buildings around the world... but until he jumped out of space no one really knew him. Or how hot he is.

See, the man jumped out of space. For the past five years he's been practicing and planning and keeping this secret that he was going to jump out of space and come hurtling to the earth at ridiculous speeds.

The first thing that bugs me is how few people in my circle of acquaintances watched the live jump. My whole family sat glued to the tv all Sunday afternoon as he climbed into this tiny, claustrophobically small capsule and ascended slowly --- and I mean slowly --- to a point that was so high above the earth's atmosphere there were no air molecules. Let me say that again: no air molecules.

I sat silent as my 11-year old asked why he was doing this. How the hell did I know? The man was obviously delusional and had a death wish, I wanted to say. But really, I knew that wasn't it. This man felt a purpose. A dream. A vision he had but one life to achieve and, by God, he was going to do it.

My heart ached as the camera cut to his mother, stoically watching from her seat in the command center. As a mother, who would want a first row seat to their son's possible death?

My breathing stopped - literally stopped - when Colonel Kittinger talked Felix through the checklist: Unhook the oxygen. No response. Unhook the oxygen, Felix. Still nothing. Was he panicking? Felix, I need you to unhook the oxygen now. NO! Don't do it! Tell them you changed your mind! Tell them you just want to come back down slowly to earth!

But then he did it. He unhooked the oxygen.

And he slowly slid out to the edge of the capsule. And he placed his feet on a step that's the size of a skateboard and all I could think of was what if he slips in those huge moon boots he's wearing? Why didn't they make the step wider?

And as he stepped off that little ledge I covered my daughter's eyes because I didn't want her to be traumatized when this man vaporized on live tv - because do you know what happens to your blood when it's exposed to temperatures of 70-degrees below zero? It vaporizes. What if that stupid suit rips? I'm not sure I wanted to watch that on tv. And don't think it couldn't have ripped, because I'm sure Joe Kittinger didn't think his suit was going to malfunction, either.

Luckily, the camera feed cut away and we were left with two nervous news anchors... and the whole world waited.

I kept thinking about his mom. When she watched him toddling around, jumping off the couch cushions, did she really understand the depth of her proclamation that he's such a daredevil? I've always said I want my children to do anything their hearts lead them to do... could I encourage my son to realize his dream of falling at a rate of speed completely incomprehensible to my feeble mind? Or would I try to talk him into doing something more logical? More reasonable? What about working as a luggage carrier? You like airplanes; they're union.

One of the news anchors stated that at first she thought he was just crazy, but as she watched him stand outside the capsule, facing his dream, she thought him nothing but courageous. How many of us don't have even the courage to dream that big?

A couple thoughts though:

#1:  How on earth did cameras capture him free falling? Big V said they were on nearby satellites. But I can't believe Big V because he also said there's no way a human being could go that fast without exploding. To which we had to discuss (1) the importance of the pressurized spacesuit and (2) the fact that the atmosphere is so thin you can't actually "feel" yourself falling. You're just there. Chilling. Watching the earth come to you. But then once you hit all those air molecules that are closer together you (a) start slowing down and (b) start feeling things. Yes, without the helmet your face would probably rip off.

#2:  Felix landed about 40 miles away from where he left. They said they had helicopters out that would pick him up and, as we've seen with the constant footage streaming across the world, there really was a helicopter right there when he landed. How did he not get stuck in their propellers?

#3:  How freaking cool would it be to work for Red Bull? We were talking about this last night at a volleyball game and my friend turned to me and said her cousin works for Red Bull, and actually on this project. I'm going to update my resume now.

photo credits: google images. There were so many I almost couldn't tear my eyes away!


Rebecca said...

Yay! Another person who watched it al! (You're the only person I know other than family who did, so forgive my book of a comment.)

He did seem a little panicked when it came time to unhook the oxygen, but maybe he had far too much going through his head right then to process what he was being asked to do. Did your jaw drop like mine did when the door opened and all you could see was blackness and the curve of the Earth? I was no nervous and audibly gasped when he jumped off of that little platform. And then he was tumbling and tumbling and spinning and I flashed to SpaceCamp when they talked about having to be at just the right angle to enter the atmosphere and I was sure he wasn't going to make it...but then he leveled out. (It's different, I know but still...) How the heck did he do that? (I'm not sure which channel you were watching it on, but on Discovery they stayed with the fall other than about 1.5 seconds. I would have been ticked if they had cut away.)

To your thoughts:
They were able to catch him on video because they were using an infrared camera. It wasn't until he got much closer that they switched back to regular video.
The helicopters were close because they were tracking where the capsule was. It had drifted east during the ascent due to some winds and then started heading back to the west when he hit a different air current. They were keeping a pretty good eye on him. ;) How he didn't get stuck in their propellers though...that's a good question!
As to #3...I think I'll do the same. Again.

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

@Rebecca: A fellow Geek! LOVE!! I keep asking people if they watched and the majority of the response is a shoulder shrug and "I caught it on YouTube" and I'm all in their face THAT'S NOT ENOUGH! It's been a long, long time since I was held captivated like that. (The last time was 9/11 -- this was MUCH MORE hopeful.)

Can you even imagine working for a company that makes THAT much difference in the world? Who knew? I thought it was just an overpriced energy drink that tasted like cough syrup.

Thanks for answering my questions! The camera was REALLY bothering me!

Getrealmommy said...

Yeah. I would lock my kids in the garage if they ever got an idea this crazy. No. Freaking. Way.