An Uncontrollable Spin While Supersonic Threatened Felix Baumgartner's Jump and Life

The jump didn't go smooth from start to finish, but he got down safely in the end

By Lucian Parfeni on October 15th, 2012 07:44 GMT
Felix Baumgartner became the fastest man alive yesterday after jumping from a record height of almost 39 km, 128,000 feet. There are no official figures yet, they need to be verified and ratified first, but the preliminary numbers are quite impressive.

But the jump wasn't as smooth as the team had hoped. There were problems, but those are unavoidable in attempts like this.

At one point his visor started fogging up, when he was very high during his freefall, due to some issues with the power supply of his heated visor.

This wasn't a problem once he got down to a lower altitude where the air is hotter.

More problematic, and a lot more scary, was an uncontrolled spin in the first tens of seconds of his jump, just as he was breaking the sound barrier.

This was the biggest problem that could have happened, the atmosphere is very thin out there, it's so thin that he would be unable to make any adjustments to his position, there's simply no control until you get to at least 35 km, 115,000 feet.

"It was an incredible up and down today, just like it’s been with the whole project," Baumgartner said after the jump.

"The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I’d just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I’d lose consciousness," he said.

Thankfully, he was able to stabilize and continue his freefall with no further problems until he got to the height he could safely open his parachute. Still, he was too busy to enjoy his trip.

"I didn’t feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We’ll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," he explained.
Felix Baumgartner about to jump during a previous test run
   Felix Baumgartner about to jump during a previous test run
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