Google’s Vice President Breaks Highest Parachute Jump Record

Alan Eustace asccending to 135,890 feet 1 photo
Photo: New York Times
Alan Eustace, Google’s senior vice president of knowledge, successfully jumped from the edge of space at 135,890 feet (41,420 meters) on Friday evening. The computer scientist remained in freefall for about 4.5 minutes and hit a top speed of 822 mph. With his jump, Eustace broke the highest parachute jump record previously established by Felix Baumgartner, two years ago.
The computer scientist started his journey in a high-altitude, helium-filled balloon, leaving from an abandoned airport in New Mexico. His technical team had designed a carbon fiber attachment that kept him from becoming entangled in the main parachute before it opened. Eustace freed himself from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive device.

He had a special parachute and a life-support system developed with a small team in the last three years. He also carried some modest GoPro cameras aloft, connected to his ground-control center by an off-the-shelf radio.

He refused Google’s help

As opposed to the previous record-maker, the 57-year old engineer never wanted people to know about his venture until after he successfully made the jump. There were no fancy million dollars suites, nor sponsors who would televise the whole thing. In fact, the entire project, which was prepared by Eustace for the last three years, was founded from his own money.

The man said Google had been willing to help with the project, but he wouldn’t want his adventure to turn into a marketing event, so he refused any help. He has been working for the last three years with a small group of technologists skilled in spacesuit design, life-support systems, and parachute and balloon technology.

Another big difference from the Australian daredevil is that Eustace describes himself rather as an engineer first with a deep commitment to teamwork. However, he does pilot his own Cessna twin-engine aircraft and has a reputation of a thrill-seeker in Silicon Valley.

According to The New York Times, Alan Eustace said he gained a love of space and spaceflight while growing up in Orlando, Florida, during the ‘60s and ‘70s. His family crowded into a station wagon to watch every launch from Cape Canaveral. A veteran aircraft pilot and parachutist, he worked as a computer hardware designer at Digital Equipment Corporation for 15 years before moving to Google in 2002.

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