It would seem that record breaking is all around us, quite literally. It is remarkable that this year two men will be attempting records that will take them respectively as high and as low as is humanly possible within the confines of this planet, within only a few months of each other. I am of course referring to Felix Baumgartner (Austria) and James Cameron (U.S.) who will each be exploring opposite ends of the record-breaking spectrum in a bid to break records that have stood for over 50 years. Much has been written about both men and their projects but it is unavoidably noteworthy that both these endeavors will come to fruition this very same year after literally decades of preparation.
The depths of the ocean and the edge of space hold equal fascination. The hostile, unknown nature of both provide opportunities that for most of us remain confined to the pages of a Jules Verne novel. As Cameron has said, "Imagination feeds exploration. You have to imagine the possible before you can go and do it". It really is a testament to the human spirit that these men should venture into such environments as they seek to explore how far the boundaries can be pushed. This is truly record-breaking at its most courageous and the two men chasing this moment of wonder should be applauded and celebrated. This is the stuff legends are made of; this is how history is made and records are broken.
There are no mysterious Lincoln/Kennedy symmetries between the two men but the parallels of the attempts are remarkably striking:
- James Cameron, aboard Deepsea Challenger, will travel 7 miles (36,000 feet) beneath the surface of the ocean to its deepest point, the Marianas Trench
- Felix Baumgartner will float 22.7 miles in a capsule above the earth's surface to the edge of space, step off and freefall 120,000 feet
- Cameron will submerge in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Mariana Islands in early 2012
- Baumgartner will jump out above Roswell, N.M. in late 2012
- In a 24-foot long vessel it will take Cameron 90 minutes to reach the ocean floor
- In a 13-foot tall capsule, it will take Baumgartner 3 hours to reach the stratosphere (including the helium balloon tethered to the capsule the whole craft will measure 764 feet)
- At an altitude of 120,000 feet, without a pressure suit Felix Baumgartner's body fluids would begin to boil from lack of atmospheric pressure (ebullism)
- At a depth of 36,000 feet, the approximate force exerted is 16,000 psi, the equivalent of eight tons bearing down on one square inch
- Cameron will set a new record for diving deeper than any other human has on a solo mission
- Baumgartner will break four records; highest manned balloon flight (current record: 34,668 meters), freefall from highest altitude (current record: 31,332 meters), supersonic speed in freefall (current record: 614 mph/Mach 0.9) and longest freefall time (current record: 4 minutes, 36 seconds)
- Baumgartner's attempt aims to break Colonel Joseph Kittinger's record set on Aug. 16, 1960 when he jumped from 102,800 feet at a time when it was not known if a human being could survive a jump from outer space
- The only time any human being has ever reached the Marianas Trench was on Jan. 23, 1960 when the United States Navy bathyscaphe Trieste touched the bottom with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard on board
It is a momentous occasion whenever any major superlative is attempted and history is full of brave men and women who have sought to explore the unknown and educate the human race further about what is or isn't possible. "It's human nature to want to go faster and further," Kittinger has said when referencing Baumgartner's attempt highlighting this sentiment.
It is said that the first recorded parachute jump was in 1797 when André-Jacques Garnerin dropped from about 6,500 feet over Parc Monceau, Paris in a 23-foot-diameter parachute made of white canvas. In similar historical symmetry to this year's events, the earliest practical submarine is considered to be American Robert Fulton's Nautilus which was first tested in dives in the Seine near Rouen beginning July 29, 1800. Little did they know that 200 years later their early forays would lead to equally historic events in 2012.
Guinness World Records wishes James Cameron and Felix Baumgartner and their teams only the very best and we look forward to the successful completion of their missions and celebrating yet another milestone in the inspirational world of record-breaking.
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