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Flying without wings

Felix Baumgartner might not have broken Joe Kittinger’s world record for the longest time spent in freefall, but he did smash a fourth milestone during his dive.

Not only did he break the current standing records for highest ever jump, longest distance fall and fastest downward speed, but he destroyed the record for most views of a live streaming event on YouTube.

The stunt was watched by eight million YouTubers at the same time, and while the site hasn’t divulged exact stats, that figure is apparently higher than the last record holder, President Obama’s inauguration.

If you’re wondering why this more than a crazed Aussie out to prove that Redbull really does “give you wings” let me just show why this jump was so important.

First off, the tragic accident of space shuttle Columbia, which occurred on February 1, 2003. Columbia burst into flames upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, and while I won’t go into details behind what caused the accident, the fact remains that there really was no other way for the astronauts on board to get back to earth than risking re-entry with the damaged shuttle. This jump and the data from both Baumgartner’s suit on pod will help in the development of new technologies to aid astronauts, high altitude pilots and, one day, space tourists.

No, you didn’t just misread that, or is it some type of the space tourism that is very much on the rise with Virgin Galactic continuing to carry out tests of their space craft – and safety is always a big talking point. Virgin Galactic plans to provide sub-orbital space flights to space tourists, suborbital launches for space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites.

However, further in the future Virgin Galactic hopes to offer orbital human space flights as well. The difference is their launch technique. Launching from a large airplane gives space craft more initial speed and altitude than if it was launched from the ground.

It’s also less expensive, meaning unlike its Russian counterpart, Virgin will be able to offer cheaper flights and open the possibilities of going to space to the everyday person.

So you see, this jump was more that a very expensive stunt or crazy advertisement. This was a step in the right direction for science and for technology. A step for both space professionals and tourists alike, and above all it was just something that was really cool.

I’m glad I watched it all live and happy to see the mission was a success despite one or two little glitches. And though this might not give rise to the start of production of the Starship Enterprise, it opens even more possibilities for us as it relates to space travel.

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