Wow, these guys are insane.  Brave, but insane.

They’re attempting to beat the record for highest free fall – currently standing at a staggering 24.5 kilometres.  The mind boggles.

Repeated attempts to jump from ridiculous heights have taught us a lot about how to survive it – don’t open the parachute straight away (you’ll take too long and freeze to death), and use a smaller “drogue” chute to stabilise you so you don’t spin too much, to name just two.

What really caught me about the article, though, was the story about a previous attempt, in 1966 by Nick Piantanida.  It was his third attempt, with mechanical problems on each of the previous ones preventing him completing the mission, and unfortunately this time was no better.

Everything was going according to plan, with the gondola at 17.5 kilometres on the way up, when the ground crew heard a sudden whoosh on the radio, followed by Piantanida’s startled voice: “Emergen…”

He never completed the word.

Not to make light of the tragedy, but I’m wondering; the crew came to the conclusion that there was a mechanical failure, but what if he’d seen something that startled him?  Could there have been some aliens flying by, or something more sinister?

 
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