The man who span to Earth

October 15, 2012 • 7:31 am

by Matthew Cobb

More on Felix Baumgartner: this terrifying camera view from Baumgartner’s chest at the beginning of his dive yesterday shows how it nearly all went terribly wrong as he span nearly out of control for over a minute before eventually getting control of his dive.

And if all that emotion wasn’t enough for you, here’s the whole jump – in Lego!

44 thoughts on “The man who span to Earth

    1. The rarified air at high altitudes doesn’t help either – there’s hardly any air friction for him to use.

  1. The current usage is “spun” for past tense of “spin”.

    “Webster’s 3rd New Int’l Dictionary gives spun also, but labels span an “archaic” usage”

    1. So I’m archaic! The OED says “Past tense spun, span”. And in 1857, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

      “The storm-wind wove, the torrent span,
      Where they were bid the rivers ran.”

      Who could argue with that?

      1. And I note that The Guardian has “Dramatic footage taken from a camera mounted on Felix Baumgartner’s spacesuit shows the terrifying moments he span out of control”… So at the very least, I’m not the only one!

        1. Well, I tender the following, Matt:

          (“spin” is there but is not highlighted – uncommon usage?)

          But who am I to argue with a poet at heart? 🙂 Some of my closest friends are poets. Good enough then.

      2. Which form is in use depends on where you live. Perhaps ‘span’ is an older form but it’s still widely used; I wonder why it’s listed as archaic.

  2. As I heard it explained, some tumbling was expected due to the lack of resistance encountered during the initial period of the jump. I haven’t heard if what he experienced was beyond the expected parameters. But it did look scary as hell watching him tumbling on live TV. A very nerve wracking few minutes. I can only imagine how he was feeling.

  3. Tks for this video. It was fascinating, almost frightening.

    I saw elsewhere tt he said that he thought he almost lost it when he began to spin and was very relieved when he could correct it.

    1. Considering that it looked for all the world to me like a flat spin, I can certainly understand why he thought he might be a goner. I’m still not sure how he managed to recover from that one….


      1. I’m still not sure how he managed to recover from that one…

        It’s rather simple, heathen.

        Jesus temporarily increased the viscosity of the air surrounding the spinning Baumgartner by a factor of approximately 100,000, thus rendering it with a consistency resembling that of corn syrup.

        Corn syrup spins are much more manageable, as you might imagine.

        How syrupy sweet is our Lord?!? Can I get an amen?

          1. Good point. But why go the marinara route? Why couldn’t the FSM just reach out and grab one of Baumgartner’s legs with a noodly appendage and stabilize his spin?

            Without the FSM, it might have been pasta luego for Baumgartner.

            (I’ll get my coat.)

      2. If he had sufficient faith, he could’ve removed his jumpsuit mid-flight.

        “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” Matthew 6:27-29

  4. “This video contains content from Red Bull, who [sic] has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

    Anyone else still seeing it?

    1. No :c And since I belong to the ‘indifferent’ camp, I’m not going to go looking for ‘more official’ clips. I was prepared to watch it on here, and I remain convinced Red Bull is losing more than they gain by copyrighting this kind of material. Exposure is the best PR — but I may be wrong…

    2. OK, I have updated the link to another video that someone has illegally posted to YouTube. My guess is this will eventually disappear too. Can’t find an official Red Bull Stratos link to this video. If anyone can, please post and I will insert it.

  5. I’m not sure if it was really that close to all going terribly wrong.

    Baumgartner was equipped with a drogue parachute that he did not use. This parachute could have been deployed to help stabilize him either manually at Baumgartner’s own choice or else automatically if the g-forces he experienced went above a certain threshold.

    As it happens, Baumgartner said he considered deploying the drogue manually but said he really wanted to break the speed and free fall records and thought he could re-establish control on his own.

  6. Amazing feat, but didn’t he know he was going to spin o.o.c. without the little stabilizing chute? The spin killed a guy or two way back before what’s his name used the little drag chute. Oh, well, I saw the spin on the video. He didn’t appear that far from having blood slung out of his ears, eyes, nose, mouth and bottoms of his feet. But, hey, 800+- mph or something like that. Must’ve been a kick if he had any perception of it.

    1. In a virtual vacuum at such high altitude, I doubt he had any perception. Baumgartner described the sensation as like floating in water but without getting wet. Kittinger said that other than the feeling of weightlessness, he had no perception of speed or falling at all.

      1. Actually that wasn’t right, those graphs only go up to 30,000 feet. There’s a better graph on Wikipedia here
        and it’s a little complicated. From his jump height of around 40km, the speed of sound gradually decreases until 20km, then stays steady, then starts to increase sharply below 11km.

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