Supersonic speed without a vehicle is coming

Red Bull may not give you wings, but it'll give you a super suit that will let you fall from space at Mach 1

Before the end of 2012, man will have travelled faster than the speed of sound, using only gravity. The man in question is skydiving mastermind Felix Baumgartner, who's teamed up with Red Bull to create a suit that will let him jump from a record breaking 36,000m. He'll then break another three records – which will include travelling at Mach 1, the speed of sound.

Reaching 36,000m in 3 hours while in a pressurised capsule – attached to a balloon – then depressurising and jumping out for a record breaking (yes, another) five minutes and 35 seconds of flight all sounds easy – for Felix, at least. In reality the dangers include freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen, uncontrollable spinning, and air pressure so low that blood can boil with vapour bubbles.

So what’s keeping him safe? Apart from rigorous Rocky-style training, he will be wearing the Red Bull Stratos suit, which will supply him with oxygen, pressure and enough warmth to stay conscious. There’s also a drogue parachute which will stabilise him should he start to spin out of control – just as well, since spinning could lead to G-forces so high it could permanently damage his eyes, brain and cardiovascular system.

Felix won't just earn bragging rights – he'll be contributing to the sum of human knowledge. Scientists monitoring his vital signs will see – for the first time – how the human body reacts to supersonic speeds and falls from such altitudes. This data will be used for commercial space flights as well as developing sub-orbital bailout systems that don’t currently exist.

Felix and the Red Bull Stratos team will be attempting this multi record-breaking feat around December 2012. The daredevil will go from 0 to 690mph in just under 40 seconds – check back for our coverage of the jump or visit Red Bulletin for team developments as they happen.

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