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The Man Who Fell to Earth

There are things that we know we will never do. Fantasy is fantasy, but reality is a brick that hits us in the face to wake us from our dreams and sits on our chest to remind us of our limitations.

Jumping out of a pod that is connected to a helium balloon that is as tall as a skyscaper and flying within the cream colored stratosphere in an area known as “the edge of space”, seems like one of those things that might be out of reach, and for all of existence it has been — until now.

Felix Baumgartner is not like us. Born in Austria and born to swim in the air like some of us swim in the ocean, Baumgartner can fly — crossing the English Channel thanks to carbon wings and some kind of something that tamps down fear and pushes away the weight of realistic limitations. Yesterday, “Fearless Felix” broke the world record for both altitude and velocity, falling to earth from approximately 128,000 feet at a speed of 833 MPH. His free-fall lasted about 119,000 feet and took him a little more than four minutes. In that time he broke the sound barrier on the 65th anniversary of the day that Chuck Yeager did the same, in a plane, for the first time in history.

We know that we — personally — will never match Baumgartner’s moment, and because of that we are in awe of his achievement. But while we are tied to the earth by our human limitations, we also know that because of Baumgartner and his impossible fall, those limitations, those barriers that define our capacity, have moved ever so slightly toward the unknown and boundless.

Will one of our kind climb higher to fall farther and faster? Will one of us swim in space one day and dive back to the earth below? All things seem possible in the afterglow of this moment.

(Warning: This video may make you dizzy or queasy)

Category: Nerd Culture

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