When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

08 August 2007

Le grand saut

The article is not available online, dammit... but connoisseurs of extreme sports, eccentricity, skydiving and/or spaceflight would do well to get their hands on a copy of the August 13, 2007 edition of The New Yorker, and turn straight to page 58, where a long article by Burkhard Bilger introduces us to retired French paratroop colonel Michel Fournier, age 63.

Later this summer, Col. Fournier plans to attempt to parachute safely to Earth, wearing a pressure suit, from a height of twenty-five miles.

Excerpt from online abstract:
Michel Fournier has fallen from thirty-nine thousand feet (a French record), but he longs to go much higher. His record jump was just a warmup, he says, for what he calls the Great Leap: the highest, longest and fastest jump ever attempted. Fournier is a retired colonel in the French Army. He has made more than eight thousand jumps. Tells about his exercise regimen, which includes yoga, calisthenics, marksmanship. The Great Leap was conceived in the nineteen-eighties by the French Ministry of Defense and later co-sponsored by the French space agency. Its primary goal was to test parachutes and other equipment for pilots and astronauts. Tells how Fournier, who served in the French army in Algeria, came to be one of the three candidates for the Great Leap. The project was put on hold in 1988. In 1992, he quit the Army, sold his house, and purchased the mothballed equipment from the defense ministry. Over the past fifteen years, he has raised more than eleven million dollars.

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