Call it what you want. A stunt. An attempt to raise publicity for aerospace technology. But what can’t disputed is that Felix Baumgartner’s 128,000 foot jump from space can only be described with one word: “Awesome!”
I tuned in to his ascent when he was about 110,000 feet up. Although I had exams to study for and work to do, I was hooked. I could not believe that this guy was about to jump from nearly 24 miles above the ground. Seriously, was I about to witness a live death? Was the giant balloon he was attached to going to pop? When it was time for him to make the leap, I think I was more nervous than he was. The interaction between Baumgartner and mission control was as calm as can be. And then it happened. In less than ten minutes, Baumgartner went from chillin’ on a tiny capsule, to spinning out of control, to breaking the speed of sound, to parachuting, to walking like nothing had just happened.
There’s more to be learned than the fact that Felix Baumgartner is a crazy person. It’s that society craves the daredevil.
The reality is that Baumgartner didn’t do much for society except for providing a couple of hours of thrilling entertainment. And I’m alright with that. He did something that I would never consider doing, and I loved watching it. That’s what entertainment is all about.
Of course, Baumgartner is hardly the first person to attempt a life-threatening venture. We can’t forget about Evel Knievel’s motorcycle jumps, Harry Houdini’s underwater tricks, or really anything David Blaine has tried to do. All of these people went out there trying to get their audience to shout a whole bunch of onomatopoeia and they most always succeed. Society loves it when other people put themselves at risk. As long we can stay on our couch eating potato chips, we’re happy.
What is so intriguing about these daredevils, though, is why in the world they would want to do this stuff in the first place? Listen, Felix, I know the view was nice, but was it really worth the possibility of crashing to your death? He’d probably say yes, but I’d be answering an emphatic “no.”
Realistically, the riskiest thing that I’m going to attempt in my life is climbing to the top of a Planet Rock wall…while harnessed in. And I’m almost content with that.
I’ll leave the death-defying stuff to the insane people. Because as long as they keep doing it, I’ll be watching. And I’ll probably saying, “Wow!” and tweeting it too.
By: Derek Wolfe
(Photo by satosphere under a Creative Commons License)