Sometimes, amid the smallness and caution that our politics often is, it’s worth stepping back in amazement at something big and daring that a fellow human being has done. From the New York Times’ write-up of one of the more incredible things anyone has done in a long, long time:
ROSWELL, N.M. — A man fell to Earth from more than 24 miles high Sunday, becoming the first human to break the sound barrier under his own power — with some help from gravity.
The man, Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian daredevil, made the highest and fastest jump in history after ascending by a helium balloon to an altitude of 128,100 feet. As millions around the world experienced the vertiginous view from his capsule’s camera, which showed a round blue world surrounded by the black of space, he stepped off into the void and plummeted for more than four minutes, reaching a maximum speed measured at 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24.
He broke altitude and speed records set half a century ago by Joe Kittinger, now 84, a retired Air Force colonel whose reassuring voice from mission control guided Mr. Baumgartner through tense moments.
Think about sitting, truly, on top of the world and then jumping out of the vessel that carried you there, toward the unforgiving earth that makes people think twice about leaping from one-one hundredth of one-one hundredth of that height.
There may or may not be anything to come out of it that materially benefits mankind — the Times’ story mentions a spacesuit and information that could help future space tourists who have to abandon ship. But there’s something to be said, and marveled at, about such an unprecedented feat of human bravery.
Would that our politicians had the guts of Felix Baumgartner.
– By Kyle Wingfield