A senior vice president at Google has broken Felix Baumgartner’s world record for a high altitude parachute jump, with Alan Eustace hurtling from 135,908 feet – in excess of 25 miles – in a special suit crafted in top secret. Eustace took around two hours to climb into the stratosphere underneath a helium balloon, then cut his connection with a well-placed explosive charge and began a descent which saw him pass 800 mph and require him to deploy his main parachute in less than five minutes.
“You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere,” Eustace told the NYTimes, “which I had never seen before.”
The fall triggered a sonic boom, audible to those on the ground waiting for Eustace to complete his descent. The engineer himself, however, was more occupied with making sure he was falling in the right orientation, taking two backflips to position his body properly before his preliminary parachute deployed.
Back in 2012, Redbull-sponsored Felix Baumgartner completed a high-profile jump from 128,100 feet above the Earth, the stunt itself the culmination of a long and vocal development and testing process. Eustace’s journey to the world record was the complete opposite, however.
Rather than the complex capsule which Baumgartner used to ascend to the stratosphere, Eustace took a far more low-key approach, with Paragon Space Development Corporation – the founder of which he met in 2011 after deciding to attempt the jump – building the suit that would both protect him and feed him pure oxygen.
What it lacked, however, was any sort of active cooling system, severely limiting the movements the engineer could make lest he risk overheating in the process.
Development was done in secret over the space of three years. In fact, while Google apparently offered its support in the project, Eustace opted to go it alone since he was concerned it might be co-opted for marketing purposes.
Several GoPro cameras were strapped to the outside of the suit.