Google Exec Breaks Felix Baumgartner’s Record with Nearly 26-Mile Free Fall [Video]

Alan Eustace, a senior vice president of Knowledge at Google, has broken the sound barrier and set a new record taking a big leap from the edge of space.

Alan Eustace, a senior vice president at Google, set a new world record completing the highest-altitude free fall parachuting from 135,908 feet (or 25 miles) above Earth.

The 57-year-old Google executive, wearing a specially-designed space, was lifted by a large helium balloon from New Mexico to over 40km (25 miles) above the earth. He fell from near the top of the stratosphere faster than the speed of sound, reaching speeds of more than 1,300km/h.

“To break an aviation record is incredibly significant,” said Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, who viewed Mr. Eustace’s ascent. “There is an incredible amount of risk. To do it safely is a testament to the people involved.”

The previous record was set by Australian daredevil Felix Baumgartner in October of 2012 jumping with a parachute from a balloon at an altitude of 128,100 feet.

“It was amazing,” Eustace told The New York Times. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”

He added: “It was a wild, wild ride. I hugged on to the equipment module and tucked my legs and I held my heading.”

The Google executive – who is also a veteran pilot and parachutist – had been planning this jump for several years, working in secret with a small group of people trained in parachute and balloon technology, reports BBC.

His surprising jump was part of a project planned by Paragon Space Development Corp. and its Stratospheric Explorer team. The company, which specializes in extreme environmental control systems, initiated the project with Eustace and worked with him to develop, build and manage the system used during the incredible leap.

Friday’s success marked a major step forward in that effort, company officials said.

Grant Anderson, President and CEO and co-founder of Paragon, said, “The experience and dedication of the StratEx team was crucial to the program’s success. Together, Alan and the team today extended human spaceflight to the stratosphere in an important step to solidify the safety of future human endeavors.

“It is an honor to work with such an incredibly talented and accomplished group. This has opened up endless possibilities for humans to explore previously seldom visited parts of our stratosphere.”

Jim Hayhurst, director of competition at the United States Parachute Association, was the jump’s official observer. He said Eustace deployed a drogue parachute that gave him incredible stability and control despite the massive Mach 1.23 speed reached during the freefall.

“He just said it was a fabulous view. He was thrilled,” Hayhurst said of his conversation with Eustace after he landed.

The technology that has gone into developing the balloon, the spacesuit and the other systems that were used in Friday’s launch will be used to advance commercial spaceflight, namely efforts by Arizona-based World View Enterprises to take paying tourists up in a high-altitude balloon and luxury capsule starting in late 2016, says the Guardian.

The near-space exploration company World View Enterprises has since acquired this ballooning technology, Wired reported, for future space travel and research flights.

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