Project 52, Week 42 — “The Man Who Fell to Earth”

Like most people, I had heard about the man who was going to make the jump from the edge of space and hopefully hurtle to earth faster than the speed of sound. We were informed of the dangers involved and the precautions taken, and the benefits to astronauts from information collected from this historic jump. We were also kept informed as to whether he’d be able to make the jump on any given day, depending on the weather and wind.

I knew about this, and intended to watch yesterday, but when the time came I was involved with other things and was still not fully awake and only vaguely noticed that Mr. Baumgartner had started his ascent. I clicked on a couple of news sites and though the headlines kept me informed, I had trouble finding the live internet feed at first, and actually got there only a few minutes before he’d reached the height from which he intended to jump.

I was distracted then and had to feed the dogs, thinking he wouldn’t be jumping for a few more minutes, but as I turned and watched from the kitchen, he was already stepping out onto the small platform. I stood transfixed as he saluted and then I gasped as he leaped into the thin atmosphere and his figure quickly shrunk as he fell away. I felt sure he was not going to survive this jump and held my breath as the seconds, then minutes, ticked away. I was distracted a few more moments, but when I turned back he’d opened his chute and his descent was slowing. He looked all right; would he be all right?

When he landed safely and kneeled, thrusting his arms into the air, I had to admit I had tears in my eyes; what a marvelous feat, what a truly thrilling event. Did you see it? Wasn’t it amazing? If you didn’t, watch it right now:

There are those who sneer at such a feat, saying it was just a stunt to get into the record books, that he was stealing the thunder of others who’d set records in the past, but there was a great deal of scientific data collected that will be helpful. The best part, however, was that a man who’d had a plan to do this for years captured our attention, imagination and caused us to leave our own lives behind as we watched a moment in history in the making. Well done, Mr. Baumgartner, well done!

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