Felix Baumgartner is a man with an ambition. Admittedly, his ambition is somewhat unusual, but who are we to say that the desire to become the first man to achieve supersonic velocities by falling through the air is insane?
Oh, wait. It's clearly insane.
Baumgartner aims to jump out of a hot air balloon 36,575 metres in the air and freefall before opening his parachute around 1520 metres, in the process shattering a freefall record set in 1960 by US Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger who jumped out of a balloon 31,333 metres high. As you could imagine, such a jump will be dangerous; in addition to achieving supersonic speed 35 seconds after he jumps, Baumgartner will also be jumping from a point that's dangerous just to be there:
The jump height is above a threshold at 19,000 metres called the Armstrong line, where the atmospheric pressure is so low that fluids start to boil. "If he opens up his face mask or the suit, all the gases in your body go out of suspension, so you literally turn into a giant fizzy, oozing fluid from your eyes and mouth, like something out of a horror film," [Project director Art] Thompson explained. "It's just seconds until death."
Unsurprisingly, Baumgartner isn't going to do this without any kind of help: The jump will be sponsored in part by Red Bull. Well, it's supposed to give you wings, after all.
'Space diver' to attempt first supersonic freefall [New Scientist]