Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier on Oct. 14, and did so without benefit of a supersonic transport.
The 43-year-old Austrian skydiver took off this morning from Roswell, N. M., in a pressurized capsule lifted by a helium-filled balloon. His goal: to break the altitude record for a freefall set by Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger in 1960. Baumgartner was successful. Kittinger made his jump 52 years ago as the third in a series of Air Force experiments in high-altitude bailouts. His craft, the Excelsior III, was an open gondola carried aloft by a helium balloon to 102,800 feet. During his skydive, Kittinger maintained a freefall for 4 minutes and 36 seconds and achieved a speed of 634 mph before deploying his chute at 18,000 feet.
Today, Baumgartner's capsule reached 128,100 feet before he exited. Falling for 4 minutes and 20 seconds for a distance of 119,846 feet before deploying his chute, Baumgartner broke the sound barrier and reached a top speed of nearly 834 mph. Sponsored by Red Bull and filmed by National Geographic, the project will
provide valuable data for high-altitude research as well as key analysis of a latest-generation pressure suit.
To me, the most inspiring element of this story is the relationship between Kittinger and Baumgartner. Far from perceiving the retired colonel as a rival, Baumgartner sought out the 84-year-old high-altitude pioneer
for counsel. Kittinger mentored Baumgartner during the long months of preparation leading up to the record-shattering fall that lasted mere minutes.By working together, the men helped bring about a new achievement in human exploration. In a sense, Kittinger did not see his own record broken so much as his achievement carried farther by a young friend. His decades of experience helped to ensure the younger Baumgartner's success.
A similar dynamic takes place in countless human relationships. Parents should be thrilled when their children's achievements surpass their own. As should teachers whose students push their field of expertise to new limits. Whenever we help someone to go farther than we were able to go, part of us tags along for the journey. The apostle Paul felt that way about the people he helped in life. To the Thessalonian Christians among whom he had ministered, he wrote, "You are our hope, our joy, and the crown we will take pride in when our Lord Jesus Christ comes. Truly you are our glory and our joy" (1 Thessalonians 2:19,20, NCV).
Paul described the Corinthian believers as a living letter of recommendation for his ministry (2 Corinthians 3:2,3), and repeatedly called his young protégé Timothy his son. Kittinger and Baumgartner remind us that unselfish cooperation takes everyone involved farther than anyone can go alone. That proved true in
today's exploration milestone, and should always be the case among followers of Christ.
Scott Harrup is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at Out There (sharrup.agblogger.org).