Felix Baumgartner’s much publicized space jump record has already been broken by an unlikely individual. Wearing a custom-designed spacesuit, Dr. Alan Eustace, who is a senior Google executive, successfully jumped from 135,058 feet above sea level. Even more surprising than the 57-year-old’s jump (and his affiliation with Google) is how out of the blue the news was. Compared to Baumgartner’s Red Bull-sponsored jump, Eustace’s daring act had almost no attention until after it was over.
Eustace’s jump was handled a bit little differently than Baumgartner’s. Rather than being ballooned up inside of a capsule, he was lifted with a balloon attached to his back; it took the balloon just over two hours to ascend to the right altitude—more than 25 miles high. (I can only imagine what it must have been like to float up that high while staring back at Earth and wearing a bulky custom-made suit.)
When he finally detached from the balloon, Eustace fell to the Earth at speeds of over 800 miles per hour, breaking the speed of sound—and Baumgartner’s previous record, which was from an altitude of 127,852 feet. There was a media frenzy surrounding Baumgartner’s jump, which included a live stream. But Eustace’s feat was much more low-key; The New York Times has a short video of Eustace’s ascent, but the entire thing hasn’t been shared just yet.
“It was amazing,” Eustace said. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”
He did not feel or hear the supersonic boom as he passed the speed of sound, he said. He performed two slow back flips before a small parachute righted him.
His technical team had designed a carbon-fiber attachment that kept him from becoming entangled in the main parachute before it opened. About four-and-a-half minutes into his flight, he opened the main parachute and glided to a landing 70 miles from the launch site.
Eustace allegedly planned his jump in secrecy for almost three years with a close group of individuals educated in spacesuit design, life-support systems and balloon technology.
Felix Baumgartner, a daredevil by trade, seemed like the baddest man on Earth following his jump in 2012. Dr. Alan Eustace—his official title at Google is Senior Vice President of Knowledge—is a lot more low-key, according to those who know him.
“Alan is a risk-taker with a passion for details,” one work colleague told the NYTimes.