Google exec breaks skydiving altitude record, in secret
Alan Eustace, the senior vice president of knowledge at Google, apparently has an odd hobby: he likes to break skydiving altitude records.
For the past few years, he has been working with Paragon Space Development Corp. to develop a spacesuit and delivery vehicle to take him nearly into space—farther up, in fact, then the over 36,000 meters that Felix Baumgartner jumped as part of the 2012 Red Bull Stratos venture. How high? 135,890 feet, or 41,419 meters. That's 25.73 miles, if you're counting.
According to PSDC, Eustace’s day began with a four-hour oxygen pre-breath phase to wash nitrogen from his body.
All images used with permission from PSDC.
Although the flight began at dawn, Eustace and the team were apparently up much of the night, according to PSDC, going through their pre-launch checkups. Eustace had to wear a specially designed space suit similar to those used on the International Space Station.
Awaiting the launch
And how did Eustace get aloft? Using a balloon, of course.
The balloon Eustace used to gain altitude measured 11 million cubic feet, and 400 feet high at launch, according to PSDC. Even though Alan’s balloon held 11 million cubic feet at the maximum altitude, it only contained about 30 thousand cubic feet at launch, but expanded as the air pressure dropped.
Approaching the balloon
Eustace, suspended, approaches the balloon.
PSDC describes his ascent:
"Ascending at about 1,000 feet per minute, Alan achieved his target altitude in about two and a half hours. He spent a short time, around a half hour, experiencing the wonders of the stratosphere before being released from the balloon. In rapid free fall, Alan experienced a short period of near weightlessness and within 90 seconds exceeded the speed of sound. Stabilized by a small drogue chute, he continued to free fall into thickening atmosphere for about five minutes. Slowing to a much more modest speed, he deployed his parachute at around 18,000 feet and floated gently to the ground. The descent under canopy took approximately fifteen minutes."
The landing was under a fully maneuverable rectangular parachute, similar in size and design to tandem parachutes used for sport, along with an emergency chute, PSDC said. The main chute opened at around 13,000 feet allowing for a controlled descent to a gentle landing.
A successful jump
After Eustace arrived on the ground, a team helped him remove his heavy suit with integrated life support, and returned him to the launch site. Within four hours of his launch, PSDC said, he was raising a glass of champagne.