Yesterday, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner casually leapt from a platform 24 miles high. The near five-minute freefall was viewed live by over 8 million viewers on YouTube alone, during which “Fearless Felix” broke the sound barrier with his body and landed gently in Roswell, New Mexico at 11:30 a.m. Baumgartner and his team spent many years preparing for the record-smashing jump—and the technology they used to ensure his safety included NI LabVIEW software.
Baumgartner’s survival wasn’t guaranteed. If he managed to avoid an unstoppable spin (he narrowly did), his life depended on the integrity of his pressure suit. At 102,800 feet, the temperatures plummet to 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The atmosphere was so thin that his blood would have vaporized if his equipment failed.
Testing his pressurized jump suit and helmet was a larger goal of the mission. His suit, equipped with sensors and recorders, measured everything from his speed to his heart rate. Back at mission control, his team used LabVIEW to monitor various I/O like altitude, pressure, and oxygen levels. In the future, such equipment could save an astronaut's life if a spacecraft malfunctions.
The Red Bull Stratos jump is proof that with proper testing and the right technologies, not even the sky is the limit for human accomplishment. We’d like to wish Baumgartner and his entire team congratulations on behalf of National Instruments.