He has spent two decades and nearly $20 million in a quest to fly to the upper reaches of the atmosphere with a helium balloon, just so he can jump back to earth again. Now, Michel Fournier says, he is ready at last.20-Year Journey for 15-Minute Fall (New York Times, 24 May 2008)
Depending on the weather, Fournier, a 64-year-old retired French army officer, will attempt what he is calling Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap) on Sunday from the plains of northern Saskatchewan.
He intends to climb into the pressurized gondola of the 650-foot balloon, which resembles a giant jellyfish, and make a two-hour journey to 130,000 feet. At that altitude, almost 25 miles up, Fournier will see both the blackness of space and the curvature of the earth. He will experience weightlessness.
Then he plans to step out of the capsule, wearing only a special space suit and a parachute, and plunge down in a mere 15 minutes.
If successful, Fournier will fall longer, farther and faster than anyone in history. Along the way, he can accomplish other firsts, by breaking the sound barrier and records that have stood for nearly 50 years.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
24 May 2008
Le grand saut
Followup to a (much) earlier post: