It may be considered a stunt to most, but Felix Baumgartner has just concluded what might be one of the most difficult and trying tests a human being has ever put themselves through. Taking himself up to 24 miles above the earth's surface, the fearless daredevil took himself higher into the stratosphere, in a helium hot-air balloon, than anyone had before. Then, in one of the most breathtaking visuals I, or anyone of my generation has every seen, he saluted his home planet...then let go.
I have to admit, I was skeptical when I heard of the announcement of the "stunt", and even during the testing phases, I eschewed it as just another Red bull propaganda scheme. But, as I watched the live feed (as you can see above), I realized I was watching something more. When he raised his hand to his helmet's visor, a semblance of his courage and his dedication to his craft and the technology and the dedication that his species had devoted to him, I found myself devoting my faith in him.
I prayed for him. I believed in him. For that one second that he withheld upon that visage, I couldn't believe that a member of our species would have the gall and wherewithal to to ever imagine, much less ascertain and achieve an accomplishment such as this.
Previously, I questioned the scientific logicality of such a mission. Was this just a higher base for Felix to jump from? Had he grown tired of the cliffs and buildings he has previously bound off of?
But, my questioning was misguided. Baumgartner wasn't only pushing the limits of his own will, not only the limits of the will of humankind itself, but he challenged and successfully proved that astronauts may have a successful escape route should they encounter danger when ascending back to our planet; a monumental achievement in our voyage above and beyond our own stratosphere.
If it sounds like I'm waxing poetically here, it's because I was honestly moved. Watching this man, LIVE, salute us from the highest plain a man has ever jumped before, using the technology that has taken us hundreds and arguably thousands of years to develop, took my breathe away. Never before, through the use of media coverage, have I ever felt so enthralled to be a member of this species.
But, if I can, just a word on that media coverage.
On an event so huge, so large in scope, you would think that a national media outlet like CNN would provide the most comprehensive coverage possible. It's why I had them plastered on my television as I wrote upon other topics today, which is my job. Glancing back and forth between my computer and CNN, I entrusted them to give me all the information and sustenance about this even that I needed. And, they did a fantastic job...until the actual jump.
As I watched Felix (I feel so close to him now that I have to call him by his first name) cling to that apparatus, my heart fluttered. With every correspondence with mission control-at which at that point, there were many-I found myself holding my breath just to hear exactly the syllables hissing from his space helmet. And then, he raised his hand to his visor, in a salute-in one of the most amazing and touching moments I'll ever see projected upon a screen of any kind-and then...CNN cut back to their newsroom.
I scrambled. I already had a live feed embedded into the website you're reading this upon, so it was just a matter of clicking the right buttons, and luckily, I didn't miss the most magical moment of all: him letting go. No fear. No abhorrent movements or screams or tics...just him letting go into the stratosphere. It was beautiful.
Further I will not go into just how terribly CNN had dropped the ball in this situation, for that you can read my earlier post. But what I will say is that for one moment, one man, solely equipped with a spacesuit, helmet and a parachute, reaffirmed for me everything that is good in this spectrum, and ether, of life and death, and ultimately, humanity.
I wasn't there when we reached the moon. This is my moon landing.