On Oct. 8, seasoned skydiver and BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner is scheduled to perform an unprecedented feat of athleticism, science, and, possibly, stupidity. He’ll free-fall nearly 23 miles to earth—jumping from a pressurized capsule hoisted by the world’s largest helium balloon. If he jumps at an imprecise angle or any part of his gear malfunctions, he may die, as have two others who’ve tried a similar act. But if all goes as planned, he will pass the speed of sound (690 mph) within 40 seconds, smash four world records, and consecrate the most high-tech spacesuit ever created. All thanks to … Red Bull.
Getting past the fact that i’m quoting my own writing here — the Red Bull Stratos mission, scheduled to occur in about 25 minutes from now, is all shades of fascinating.
In the Newsweek piece, I was able to get in what fit—that this is an outrageous publicity coup for Red Bull, a company which invented extreme marketing in the form of supporting daredevil sports.
What didn’t fit, and what i find most fascinating, is the meaning of this mission in the grander scope of innovation and the private sector. Most of Red Bull’s logos are displayed in the name of sport and stunt, but Stratos is strikingly close in ambition to the space missions of decades past. It’s the first innovation (as far as I’m aware) in space technology to occur at the hands of a retail corporation rather than a country. Evil Knievel wore stars and stripes and Neil Armstrong planted the flag, but it seems we’re approaching an era where extreme adventure, no matter the outcome, is just another chance for the masses to rally behind a logo. And Red Bull has the first-mover advantage.