Google Exec. Falls From Stratosphere

Earlier on Friday, an established computer scientist parachuted from a balloon near the top of the stratosphere, plunging faster than the speed of sound and breaking the world altitude record. Woah.

Alan Eustace, a senior vice president at Google, is who accomplished the feat, breaking Baumgartner’s world record set two years ago. A balloon filled with 35,000 cubic feet of helium lifted Eustace at daybreak, from an empty runway at an airport.

The balloon ascended for a little more than 120 minutes at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of more than 25 miles. During the time, Eustace trailed underneath in a custom designed spacesuit that featured an elaborate life-support system, returning to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall.

“It was amazing,” he said. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”

Google Exec. Falls From Stratosphere - ClapwayPhoto Courtesy of

As he fell, Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon with the help of a small explosive device, diving toward the Earth at speeds that peaked 822 miles per hour while performing two slow back flips before a small parachute righted him.

“It was a wild, wild ride,” he said. “I hugged on to the equipment module and tucked my legs and I held my heading.”

The 57-year-old’s technical team had created a carbon-fiber add-on that kept him from becoming caught in the main parachute before it opened. About four-and-a-half minutes into his excursion, he opened the main parachute and glided to a landing 70 miles from the launch site.

While descending, the faster-than-sound speeds set off a small sonic boom heard by observers on the ground, although Eustace did not feel or hear the noise himself.

“To break an aviation record is incredibly significant,” said Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, who viewed Eustace’s flight. “There is an incredible amount of risk. To do it safely is a testament to the people involved.”

According to The New York Times, Eustace’s maximum altitude was initially reported as 135,908 feet, while the final number, based on information from two data loggers, was submitted to the World Air Sports Federation as 135,890 feet.

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner had previously set the altitude record in October of 2012 when he jumped from 128,100 feet.