Watchuseek Blog

Monday, October 15, 2012

El Primero: Felix Baumgartner breaks speed of sound in freefall

He’s done it! We’ve been reporting on the attempt by Zenith Ambassador, Felix Baumgartner, to earn his place in the history books by making the world’s longest sky dive from the edge of space.

On Sunday, after overcoming concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardised the mission, Felix Baumgartner finally achieved his ambition. Wearing the all-new El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th chronograph, Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km (Mach 1.24) jumping from the stratosphere, which, when certified, will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set several other records* while delivering valuable data for future space exploration.

After flying to an altitude of 39,045 metres (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed a record breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger. 

Baumgartner landed safely with his parachute in the desert of New Mexico after jumping out of his space capsule at 39,045 metres and plunging back towards earth, hitting a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20 minute long freefall. Baumgartner's jump lasted a total of 9:03 minutes. Countless millions of people around the world watched his ascent and jump live on television broadcasts and live stream on the Internet. At one point during his freefall Baumgartner appeared to spin rapidly, but he quickly re-gained control and moments later opened his parachute as members of the ground crew cheered and viewers around the world heaved a sigh of relief.

"It was an incredible up and down today, just like it's been with the whole project. First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I'd just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I'd lose consciousness. I didn't feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We'll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be." Felix Baumgartner

 Baumgartner's El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th watch

Commenting on his exploits, Zenith President & CEO, Jean-Frédéric Dufour said: “The Manufacture Zenith is very proud to have been the official timekeeper of this mission and to present the El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th Tribute to Felix Baumgartner. Thanks to him, Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th is the first watch ever to cross the sound barrier in a near space environment.”

The Stratos is equipped with the world’s most accurate automatic chronograph movement – the legendary El Primero – as well as the Striking 10th and Flyback functions, making it an eminently suitable partner for Felix Baumgartner’s exploit. “This project is all about uniqueness, manpower and precision and my Zenith chronograph perfectly matches the mission.” said Felix Baumgarnter after the jump.

Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission that is designed to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.

Zenith watches have often accompanied pioneers during their most incredible projects, participating in some of the greatest human adventures. These include explorer Roald Amundsen’s discovery of the North and South Poles; Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful fight for India’s independence; the laying of the foundations of ecology by the learned Prince Albert I of Monaco; Louis Blériot’s Channel crossing; John F. Kennedy’s political career; intrepid explorer, Colonel John Blashford-Snell in various endeavours such as his latest expedition to Nepal; as well as Johan Ernst Nilsson in his daring Pole2Pole mission. Felix Baumgartner has now joined this illustrious list.

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