A 57-year-old Google executive and pilot parachuted from a death-defying height of 135,890 feet on October 24.
Want to set a world record for highest free fall? Well, you’ll have to top Alan Eustace, the 57-year-old Google Senior Vice President of Knowledge who parachuted from an altitude of 135,890 feet yesterday. Eustace, a pilot and “avid skydiver,” worked with Paragon Space Development Corporation on the jump, which wasn’t revealed until after it took place on October 24.
The record was previously held by Felix Baumgartner, who made his famous plummet to Earth about two years ago. Baumgartner’s 2012 fall from space was hugely publicized; the sponsored event was hyped for weeks before the eventual televised free fall. Eustace’s methods differed from Baumgartner’s; he was lifted by a “balloon filled with 35,000 cubic feet of helium” until he reached the optimal altitude, at which point he separated himself “with the aid of a small explosive device.” The climb took about two hours; the descent was just 15 minutes, during which Eustace broke the sound barrier and caused an audible sonic boom traveling over 800 miles per hour.
Eustace’s jump differed from Baumgartner’s in another noteworthy way: it was carried out without publicity and sponsors, with the Google exec “working for almost three years with a small group of technologists skilled in spacesuit design, life-support systems, and parachute and balloon technology.” His years of work paid off, and Eustace now holds the world record for jumping from the highest altitude.