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Red Bull Stratos is a near-space diving project launched in January 2010 in which Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner successfully attempted the world’s highest sky dive from 24 miles above the Earth. On October 14th, 2012, Baumgartner lifted off in a capsule from the Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico, completing the 24-mile fall to Earth. The live streams of the jump broke the record for the most-watched streaming event in history.
Prior to working with Red Bull in 1999, Felix Baumgartner had set a world record for the highest parachute jumpand participated in various other extreme sports such as skydiving across the English Channel and BASE jumping. In January 2010, Baumgartner announced that he was going to attempt to complete a jump that would involve going faster than the speed of sound, breaking a record set by “space diving” US Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger in 1960. Working with Kittinger and a sponsorship by the energy beverage company Red Bull, the jump was initially supposed to take place in 2010 in North America, using a helium balloon-driven capsule from an altitude greater than 120,000 feet.
In April 2010, Australian promoter Daniel Hogan sued Red Bull over a similar project to break Kittinger’s record he and his team discussed doing with the company in 2004. Though the relationship between Red Bull and Hogan ended in 2005, Hogan claimed the Stratos project would not have happened without the ideas Hogan previously discussed with them, both for the dive itself and for the ways to publicize it. Hogan claimed he had certain rights to the project, filing for more than $600 million dollars in damages, depending on who was going to sponsor the project. That October, Red Bull cancelled the Stratos project until the suit was settled in July 2011.
In February 2012, promotional materials about the jump began appearing on the Red Bull website and YouTube channel. The official Stratos site and Twitter account were also launched, with a blog to chronicle Baumgartner’s preparations. The physics that would allow Baumgartner to successfully make the jump was analyzed by Wired throughout June and July 2012. The mission was initially slated for launch on October 9th, but later aborted due to strong winds and rescheduled for October 14th.
On October 14th at 9:30AM MDT, the capsule was launched from the Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico. It took 2.5 hours to travel 24 miles into the stratosphere. Baumgartner turned on his helmet cameras and stated “Sometimes you have to go up really high to see how small you are” before jumping out of the capsule.
During his four minute descent, Baumgartner hit a speed of 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.2. The event was broadcast by 40 television networks in more than 50 countries and streamed by more than 130 digital outlets, including the Discovery Channel, Red Bull’s official website and YouTube.
Baumgartner’s jump was streamed online in real-time via YouTube, where it attracted more than 8 million viewers and set a record for “live stream with the most concurrent views ever” on the site. The viewership easily surpassed that of the previously held record of 500,000 concurrent streams during the 2012 London Summer Olympics. People on Twitter also reacted to the news in excitement, with half the worldwide trending topics on Twitter pertaining to Baumgartner’s jump in the hour leading up to and following the event.
Meanwhile on Facebook, links to Red Bull’s official Stratos website received more than 578,000 likes, 523,000 shares and 714,300 comments within the first 24 hours of the event and three images of Baumgartner immediately before and after the jump accumulated over 812,000 likes and 22,000 comments in aggregate. Following the jump-off, Red Bull solicited questions for Baumgartner to be answered at a post-jump news conference via Twitter.
On Reddit, two separate threads relating to Baumgartner’s jump reached the site frontpage, where some Redditors engaged in a lively discussion about the prospects of privatization in space exploration and others upvoted an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) request thread for the Austrian diver. From the discussions also emerged a handful of image macro commentaries on Baumgartner’s record-setting jump.
Also later that same day, YouTuber StratosJump uploaded a stop-motion LEGO tribute to Baumgartner’s jump, re-enacting the event in its entirety using toy building blocks and a high-altitude balloon device with a video camera.
New Scientist – ‘Space diver’ to attempt first supersonic freefall
New York Times – 24 Miles, 4 Minutes and 834 M.P.H., All in One Jump
The Guardian – Felix Baumgartner jump: record 8m watch live on YouTube