Felix Baumgartner's Disorienting and Amazing Fall From Space

What it feels like to step out into Earth's atmosphere.
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On a Saturday in October 2012, the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner stepped off a helium balloon and plummeted—with his parachute—to Earth. He simultaneously broke the world records for highest manned balloon flight, highest parachute jump, and fastest free fall velocity.

I remember the jump well. For the hour before Baumgartner leapt—and the minutes he was in the air—my Twitter and Facebook friends were captivated. Afternoon plans were canceled as we watched the live feed, enthralled.

As enthralling as the live feed was, it’s nothing compared to the video above. It turns out Baumgartner was wearing GoPro cameras on his jump, and they captured the entire fall… in astonishing detail… from a first-person view.

It is insane.

Film of Baumgartner starts around the 1:30 point; he steps out of the balloon at 3:40. The video is high-definition and should be watched full-screen. It’s also disorienting. I had to steady myself at the end of it.

In the video, just about to step into space, Baumgartner says “Sometimes, you have to be up really high to understand how small you are.”

It reminded me of something Scott Larsen, CEO of a space photography company told me: “When people are continually reminded how small Earth is, how we’re all living together, people come back with a sense of planet stewardship.”

Watch this video, see the black of space above Baumgartner and the tiny lines that are human settlement below him, and see if you don’t come away with a sense of how small you—and we all—really are.

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Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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