Jon E. Garrett
Writing the future of journalism one post at a time


October 8, 2012

Austrian man to go to extreme lengths to see if Red Bull ‘gives you wings’

What did you do the last time you drank a can of Red Bull?

Red Bull, Joerg MitterIn a photo provided by Red Bull, pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria, sits in his capsule during the preparations for the final manned flight of the Red Bull Stratos mission in Roswell, N.M. on Saturday. Red Bull Stratos announced Friday that the jump by extreme athlete Baumgartner have been moved from Monday to Tuesday, Oct. 9, due to a cold front with gusty winds. 

Odds are, if you’re anything like my friends, when you did it was mixed with vodka and you spent the night dancing like an idiot to a bad DJ “mixing live” on his MacBook Pro. Then – after plying your belly with enough water and grease to coax you into somewhat of a steady slumber – you slammed a virgin can in the morning in hopes of making the day productive one once the incessant shriek of your cell-phone alarm finally drags you of bed.

Over the years the drink that claims to  “give you wings” has become synonymous with everything from hardcore nerds and gamers pulling all-nighters to ace the next big test or level, to hardcore partiers trying to take their night to the next level.

Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes the brand has tried to build a reputation for being a performance enhancer for extreme athletes. If Gatorade is the drink of the NFL, NBA, NHL and other “mainstream sports”, Red Bull fancies itself the essential lifestyle beverage of the guys working at the edges.

I’m talking skateboarding, BMX, freeskiing… If it is in the X-games, in the air or just downright dangerous – there’s a good chance Red Bull might be involved.

Nothing says extreme energy drink like defying death after all.

So, when Red Bull announced that it would sponsor Felix Baumgartner’s 23-mile supersonic skydive awhile back I was not surprised. That’s what the company does. Still, that doesn’t make what Baumgartner and what the Red Bull’s Stratos team is trying to accomplish any less significant, or scary.

For those of us that went to public schools 23 miles (also 120,000 feet or 36,576 meters) is really high. How high is it? Planes typically fly at an altitude of six miles and the most modern military jets and passenger aircraft can achieve heights of around 19 miles, and edge of what we call “space” is just 39 miles further up.

In 1960 Joseph Kittinger set the current record with a jump of 19.5 miles, so there is some precedent for the high-altitude insanity Baumgartner – a world-renowned Austrian skydiver – is embarking on, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.

Baumgartner’s gear, and training resemble that of an astronaut more than anything else. For the jump he will ride up in a pressurized 3,000-pound capsule carried into the stratosphere over Roswell, New Mexico, courtesy of a specially made, and untested, balloon that will take 30 million cubic feet of helium to fill and stand 55 stories when inflated. The trip will take two to three hours, at which time Baumgartner will make the jump (in his full-body pressure suite and helmet) and is expected to reach speeds comparable to that of a commercial airliner as he whizzes back toward desert surface.

The jump was originally scheduled to take place Monday, but strong winds brought on by a cold front scuttled it. It has been moved to tomorrow morning (6:57 a.m. MDT/8:57 a.m.) weather permitting. Kittinger, who set the current record while a captain in the U.S. Air Force, is an adviser to the team and will be on hand to see if Baumgartner can bests his 50-year-old record. If the daredevil is successful he will also become the record-holder for fastest freefall, longest-duration freefall and highest manned balloon flight. Baumgartner would also be the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.

If everything goes as planned on Tuesday, Baumgartner will also shatter the marks for fastest freefall, longest-duration freefall and highest manned balloon flight. But the daredevil says his leap is about more than just etching his name in the record books.The feat is being chronicled by 30 video cameras and spectators will be able to watch a live feed of the event through the team’s website. There will be a 20-second delay on the broadcast in case of tragedy.











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Jon E. Garrett



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