Sunday, July 14, 2002

The Highest Free-Fall

I first read about the man trying to break the world record for highest free-fall in Sports Illustrated. It's deeply fascinating to me.

When I was in college, one of the fool-hardy things I did was go for a tandem sky-dive. The sky-diver that I was attached to was casually eating a burrito before our take-off to 10,000 feet. I remember signing and initialing a lengthy disclaimer form (there was a lurid clause that the company wouldn't be liable if I were to somehow hit a plane on my jump). I didn't feel like I was falling. Only when we landed did I feel the earth rushing towards me. Point Break emphasized this fearful feeling.

Michael Fournier will jump from 25 miles up. That's 132,000 feet. From that height, he requires a pressurized space suit and helmet. He will break the sound barrier.

The Sports Illustrated article said that Joe Kittinger did his record-breaking jump in 1960 as an Air Force test pilot, primarily to test "bailout and recovery equipment for future spacemen." His record has been in the books for four decades. The two others who tried to conquer this height have died in their jumps.

Mr. Fournier is set to go in September. I'll be watching.

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