Sunday, May 25, 2008

Falling faster than sound

Around noon on Monday [French time], a few hours after the successful landing of Nasa's Phoenix vessel on the surface of the planet Mars, a 64-year-old French parachutist named Michel Fournier will be ascending in the Canadian skies for two and a half hours by means of a giant helium-inflated balloon. Then, at an altitude of 40 kilometers, he will be detaching his nacelle. Finally, he will be falling to Earth for over seven minutes at speeds in excess of the velocity of sound.

Fournier is no newcomer to parachuting, having made some 8,600 jumps. He has been planning this high-altitude tentative for years, and training intensively for the exploit in the style of an astronaut.

If he succeeds in his exploit, Michel Fournier will gain no less than four world records: (1) altitude of balloon ascension, (2) altitude of parachute jump, (3) speed in free fall and (4) duration of free fall.

BREAKING NEWS: The website for the Big Jump [visit] indicates that weather conditions have enforced a 24-hour postponement of operations. So, rendezvous Tuesday morning in Canada.

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