Baumgartner’s space jump: why it matters

Felix Baumgartner’s amazing jump from space had a goodly portion of the Twitterverse at the edge of its seat and continues to make headlines today. But if you watch or read most of the news, you might be inclined to think that this was all just a slightly more 2001: A Space Odyssey version of Nick Wallenda’s Niagara Falls tightrope walk. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Felix Baumgartner was testing new space suit technology that may change the face of space travel forever. Consider this: there have been 528 humans in space, and of those, 18 died in space travel accidents. Most of those accidents have been on either take off or landing, and there is no such thing as ejecting from the cockpit of most space craft. That’s because, even if you could eject, you’re not likely to survive the trip back to terra firma: there simply never has been the flight suit technology to prevent you from freezing. Or depressurizing too quickly, or crushing under the weight of too many G-forces.

But clearly, that standard has now been met with the Red Bull Stratos team’s efforts. The flight suit and parachute that Felix are using may become standards or portions of standards for future space flight safety equipment.

Considering the rise of space tourism and the expansion of the International Space Station’s many missions – to say nothing of the long-term goal of sending travelers to Mars – this jump was hugely important. Hardly a simple “feat of strength” over a waterfall at all.