In about 12 hours – by the time many of you read this – Felix Baumgartner will dive from a platform at the edge of space. His challenge is to become the first human to break the sound barrier in free fall.
It is difficult to overstate the dangers of this challenge. At that altitude (120,000 ft) it is really nothing less than a space mission. With NASA supplying many of the instruments Felix will be carrying in his descent (and our friends at Redbull stepping up to fund the mission). At that altitude, there’s really no margin for error.
We wanted to write about Felix because many people will misunderstand this mission. They are calling it a stunt. They are saying he’s just an adrenalin junkie. A high altitude Evel Knievel. A thrill seeker and a showman. That his mission has no scientific merit. We say it does!
We say this mission totally has merit. This isn’t some guy goofing around. This is a man committed, since boyhood, to human flight. This is guy who stood at the edge of an airport as a kid and watched skydivers hurtle through the air. This is a guy who learned to BASE jump before it was popular and who has been involved in every aspect of this mission – from recruiting his team of NASA engineers to designing each stage of the test operations.
For guys who truly push the envelope – the ‘merits’ of their mission are not always seen in advance. Was the Apollo moon mission just about getting a guy on the moon? You wouldn’t be reading this on your computer if they were. Apollo technology revolutionized computing. It revolutionized semi conductors, telecommunications, and so much more.
We don’t know what Felix’s jump from 120,000 feet will teach us about flight. About the human body. Or about the shift in consciousness a man undergoes when he truly steps out on a ledge and confronts his mortality.
For anyone wishing to watch this extraordinary mission LIVE, Redbull has Felix strapped with every kind of camera he can possibly carry. It is scheduled to take place Tuesday, Oct 9 at 5:00am Pacific Time. And those 3 or 4 minutes of record-breaking free fall will be all rage in the world of extreme sports. But for those of us – including Felix – looking beyond the thrill for a deeper experience of life, adventure, and the indomitable expression of possibility, we’d say this is your moment too. Your Promethean moment.
Good luck, Felix. Carry the flame.