MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) - Google’s Alan Eustace has set a new parachuting world record, jumping and then free-falling from over 25 miles up, breaking the speed of sound and producing a small sonic boom in the process.
Eustace jumped from a helium balloon near the top the of stratosphere high above New Mexico on Friday. It took him only 15 minutes to descend from a height of 25 miles (40.2 km), the New York Times reports.
“It was amazing,” Mr.Eustace said to the paper after he landed. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”
Before being lifted into the sky, Mr.Eustace spent 4 hours in an oxygen chamber to remove nitrogen from his blood. He then donned a custom suit, similar to those worn by the crew of the International Space Station during EVA's. The use of a suit is necessary at such heights, as the atmosphere too thin for a humans to breath and the pressure is so low that blood and other body liquids boil.
The Google executive broke the previous record set two years ago by Felix Baumgartner, who also exceeded the speed of sound during his free fall from 39 km. Eustace ascended into space on a helium-filled balloon. Unlike Baumgartner, he was not in a capsule, rather he was directly attached to the balloon. When he reached the planned height he disconnected himself from the balloon and plunged to the ground at a speeds up to 822 mph (1322.9 kmph). The sonic boom he produced was heard by people on the ground.
“It was a wild ride,” he said. “I hugged on to the equipment module and tucked my legs and I held my heading.”
Eustace opened his parachute after 4 min 30 sec free fall at a height of 3.4 miles (5.5km), landing 70 miles away from the abandoned landing strip he launched from.
It took 3 years of preparation to make this jump possible. A team of highly-skilled professionals designed the spacesuit, life-support systems, parachute and balloon. The preparation did not involve any cutting-edge technology like Baumgartner’s capsule; neither it did take in millions of dollars of sponsorship money. This was a purely private venture Eustace claims; Google offered help, but the exec declined for the reason of secrecy.