“Fear has become my friend,” he said. He also mentioned seeing a psychologist to cope with the claustrophobia of the pressurized suit he’ll be wearing when he jumps from 120,000 feet above the Earth out of a fiberglass sphere.
And, yeah, there’s the anxiety about the actual jump, too.
Baumgartner is no stranger to insane feats that lesser mortals wouldn’t even think about attempting. But freefalling and breaking the speed of sound over Roswell, New Mexico, in a space suit? You’d have to be crazy not to get a little jittery.
The plan has been five years in the making and Baumgartner has been training mentally and physically for the mission. A jump like this hasn’t been successfully completed since Joe Kittinger's 1960 Excelsior jump. At the time, Kittinger was a U.S. Air Force test pilot, and he leapt from 102,800 feet (and walked away from the feat). His record still stands, though a few brave souls have tried to break it; they either failed or died trying.
Baumgartner is confident in the training and preparation of his team, and believes their expertise will get him through. He’s gone through a multi-stage test program created by a six-time Space Shuttle crew surgeon, aerospace engineers, retired Navy and Air Force members -- basically, the best of the best have his back. Kittinger is part of the team too, supporting Baumgartner as he preps to break his record.
When the conditions are 100 percent perfect, Baumgartner will step into his custom-tailored suit, get lifted by balloon in a capsule of pressurized air, and utilize his years, months and days of training to step out of the capsule.
[Kittinger's] record still stands, though a few brave souls have tried to break it; they either failed or died trying.
To combat the panic attacks Baumgartner started having -- not about the jump, but about his suit -- he’s had to endure intense physical and mental preparation, including spending hours in the suit and completing a test jump of approximately 71,580 feet and working with psychologist Mike Gervais, Director of Performance Psychology at Pinnacle Performance Center at D.I.S.C. It took a few weeks, but Gervais got Baumgartner to the point that he could put on the suit -- and stay in it -- without panic. He’s undergone medical and endurance tests and gotten himself in top physical shape to excel at the mission -- in this case, excel means survive.
Dr. Jonathan Clark, the medical director of Red Bull Stratos, says his main concern is that Baumgartner doesn’t fall into a flat spin on descent. The consequences could be fatal, and the team has been training to perfect Baumgartner's technique so that he can reach the Earth without a problem (such as his brain hemorrhaging as he falls).
Red Bull Stratos has completed a few lower-altitude test jumps but sometime between now and September, when the conditions over Roswell dictate, Baumgartner and his team will put their training and expertise to the ultimate test, and we will watch as he plummets to the earth from the edge of space.