Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Space jump near

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW

Photo Michel Gangne, Agence France-Presse

We have previously reported on Mr Michel Fournier amazing plan to to sky dive from 40km, through that little explored region called Near Space. He failed to raise the necessary funds last year but sometime next month he will have another attempt.

After years of training, millions of pounds of funding and numerous thwarted attempts, the daredevil Frenchman is expected to make the jump over the Saskatchewan plains in Canada next month.

In the process of le Grand Saut or "Super Jump", the 63-year-old hopes to complete a lofty hat-trick - breaking records for the highest ever parachute jump, the longest sky dive, and the highest altitude achieved by a person in a balloon.

Mr Fournier will be dressed in a £35,000 carbon fibre suit designed to protect him from freezing temperatures of -100C, as well as from extremely high temperatures caused by the air resistance created by his high-speed fall.

A re-enforced crash helmet will protect his ears from the thunderous sonic boom he will create as he breaks the sound barrier.

He will also have to spend hours before his leap inhaling pure oxygen to dispel any traces of nitrogen from his blood due to the thinness of the air at 40,000m.

Over the past two decades Mr Fournier has sold antique furniture, a prized gun collection and even his home to press ahead with his dream of completing the record-breaking dive.

He came closest in 2003, when his attempt was thwarted as his balloon burst shortly before lift-off.

"People have said I am too old, but I am very fit and have trained hard," said the veteran of more than 8,500 parachute jumps who has followed a rigorous training regime including running, lifting weights, and yoga.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't afraid, but I am also very excited. It really is a leap into the unknown."

More here. Good luck Michael!