In 1960, Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger rose in an open-air gondola and jumped from 102,000 feet -- 19 miles high -- still the highest, fastest and longest skydive on record.
Baumgartner wants to top that record, with help from his training partner and mentor -- Kittinger, now 83.
"The fundamentals are the same. The threat's the same," Kittinger says.
The equipment in 1960 was like "driving a Model T Ford (compared to a) 2020 Ferrari," Kittinger observes. "The danger is still there. It hasn't changed a bit. ... And Felix will be going through the same thing, except he's going to be four miles higher."
So high, Baumgartner could be in freefall for five-and-a-half minutes. He'll feel temperatures, including wind chill, of minus 148 degrees.
His top speed could reach 690 mph -- and he'd become the first human in freefall to break Mach 1, the speed of sound.
"I love the challenge," Baumgartner says. "That's the reason I became a skydiver, and as soon as I was a skydiver, I was looking for a challenge. ... And based on all these results, we should be ready for the big one."
This is not just a crazy publicity stunt. NASA is following Baumgartner's efforts carefully, and wirh each jump, Baumgartner is trying to advance the science of survival in high altitude.
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