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Sky Diving From Space : to be Longest, Fastest, Highest Jump in History

Update Date: Oct 02, 2012 12:32 PM EDT

Fifty years ago a man by the name of Joseph William Kittinger II, a former USAF officer and the first man to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a gas balloon, broke world records for the highest, fastest and longest skydive in history.  His skydive was from an altitude of over 19 miles.

In the last Star Trek movie, Kirk, Sulu and another character made a jump from a shuttle in orbit to a drilling platform in the atmosphere on the planet Vulcan.  This could be called a combo space/skydive.  A dive not possible by current scientific standards, but close to what is being attempted soon.

Next Monday, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will attempt to break Joseph Kittinger III's record by making a jump from the edge of space.  "I feel like a tiger in a cage waiting to get out," says Baumgartner.

This jump will also, if successful, make Mr. Baumgartner the first person to break the sound barrier in free-fall and will involve the highest manned balloon flight and longest free-fall as well. There's also a scientific element to the jump, says the team, as it could ultimately help improve the safety of space travel and enable high-altitude escapes from spacecraft.

During a previous test jump, the capsule that Mr. Baumgartner used was badly damaged upon impact.  During that jump, Mr. Baumgartner hit speeds of up to 864 kilometers per hour - as fast as a commercial airliner. But while he landed safely, the capsule came down hard.After repairs, the capsule underwent testing in an altitude chamber at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio, Texas on September 24, and passed with flying colors.

Next Monday's jump is still dependent on the weather - but the team is confident. "Early fall in New Mexico is one of the best times of the year to launch stratospheric balloons," says mission meteorologist Don Day.

To say that this jump will be a rush, would be the understatement of the year.

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