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2 skydivers, 52 years apart, same lofty goal
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. (AP) - The advice from master to student over the past three years has been simple: Be prepared. Know what to do and how to do it.
“Fearless Felix” Baumgartner has heeded Joe Kittinger’s advice and now is about to test it.
On Tuesday morning if winds allow, in the desert surrounding Roswell, N.M., Baumgartner will attempt to break Kittinger’s world record for the highest and fastest free fall.
A brief comparison of the two men and their endeavors:
Baumgartner is 43 and a former Austrian military parachutist with more than 2,500 jumps behind him.
Baumgartner is aiming to jump from 120,000 feet, or 23 miles. Kittinger plunged from 102,800 feet, or 19.5 miles.
Baumgartner expects to accelerate to 690 mph in order to break the sound barrier, or Mach 1, somewhere between 102,000 feet and 107,000 feet up. Kittinger was clocked at a maximum 614 mph, equivalent at that altitude to Mach 0.9.
Baumgartner will ascend in a pressurized capsule hoisted by a 30 million-cubic-foot helium balloon, 335 feet tall when inflated. Kittinger rode an open, unpressurized gondola that was lifted by a 3 million-cubic-foot balloon, 184 feet tall when inflated.
Baumgartner will wear a custom-made full-pressure suit. Kittinger wore an Air Force standard partial-pressure suit. He was initially claustrophobic in his suit and had counseling to overcome his anxiety.
He’s now comfortable in the suit for five to six hours at a stretch and more.
“When you close your visor, it’s your own little world. You don’t hear anything from the outside anymore. The only thing that you hear is yourself breathing all the time. Then you start thinking about bad things and it’s getting worse in a very short amount of time,” Baumgartner says. “Your brain sometimes does fancy things.”
Kittinger, by contrast, was a test pilot and used to pressure suits. In 1972, his fighter jet was shot down and he ended up a Vietnam POW, surviving 11 months of torture at the “Hanoi Hilton” prison. In the next cell was Sen. John McCain.
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