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If the flat spin had lasted longer and been more severe _ exceeding six continuous seconds at 3.5 G _ Baumgartner’s drogue, or stabilizing, parachute would have deployed automatically. Doctors worried about him blacking out and suffering a stroke or, in the case of a suit tear, his blood boiling at such an extreme altitude. The outside temperature registered as low as minus 96 Fahrenheit.

In the foreword of the 71-page report, Baumgartner said he never imagined how many people would share in his dream to make a supersonic free fall from so high.

Some 52 million people watched YouTube’s live stream of the exploit.

The scientific and engineering experts who helped bring him back alive “broke boundaries in their own fields just as surely as I broke the sound barrier,” Baumgartner wrote.

Baumgartner shattered the previous record set by Joe Kittinger, an Air Force officer, in 1960. Kittinger did not quite reach supersonic speed during his jump from 19.5 miles up.

Kittinger noted in the Red Bull Stratos report (Stratos for stratosphere) that future work is needed to test a stabilizing parachute for use at extreme altitudes.

The private project was aimed, from the start, at helping future space crews _ whether NASA or commercial _ survive high-altitude accidents.

If a highly trained jumper like Baumgartner with 2,500 jumps couldn’t prevent a flat spin, “an astronaut, pilot or space tourist could not overcome this spinning probability,” Kittinger wrote.

Thompson agreed, noting that given the right safety gear and the right conditions, there’s “a remote possibility” a space crew could survive even under such harsh circumstances as were faced by the space shuttle Columbia astronauts.

All seven astronauts perished as Columbia returned to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003. One of the crew, Laurel Clark, was married to the former NASA flight surgeon who led Baumgartner’s medical team, Dr. Jonathan Clark.

“You never know what the possibilities are … that’s the direction we need to look at,” Thompson said.

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Online:

http://www.redbullstratos.com/