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Free fallin'

Without daredevils, who would we ridicule and say “the man is crazy” or “she has lost her mind” when they pull one of their stunts to either break an already set record, garner attention or simply for the heck of it.
In the case of Felix Baumgartner, who will from now on be known as the first free-falling human being to break the sound barrier (that is until another slightly altered individual comes along and tries it), he wanted to break a record, which had already been set by Joe Kittinger, now 84. Kittinger, a retired Air Force colonel, participated in this jump by helping talk Baumgartner through some highly tense moments.
A story in the New York Times said Baumgartner made the highest and fastest jump in history after ascending by a helium balloon to an altitude of 128,100 feet. He jumped from a customized capsule, which was lifted by the balloon, wearing a specially-made, pressurized suit and helmet.
The New York Times article reported that while Baumgartner broke Kittinger’s altitude and speed records from a half century ago, he didn’t manage to break the record for time; his jump lasted only 4 minutes and 20 seconds, which was 16 seconds less than Kittinger’s.
Bummer, let’s try it again.
The NY Times piece went on to report that besides aiming at records, the engineers and scientists on the Red Bull Stratos team (the jump was sponsored by Red Bull and their undisclosed millions of dollars) were busy gathering data intended to help future pilots, astronauts and space tourists. This is comforting, for all of those who can afford to be space tourists anyway.
The highly tense moments came when Baumgartner had to overcome his claustrophobia from the suit, which is where Kittinger and his deep voice came into play, as he kept Baumgartner busy checking off certain points of the jump to keep his mind off his claustrophobia, and an episode that everyone feared would happen, where Baumgartner lost control of his body during an early part of the jump and went into a “flat spin.” Thankfully, he regained control shortly after, and the jump was safely successful.
He landed in a barren spot of a New Mexico desert. The jump was live-streamed to viewers on YouTube, the audience growing to a reported eight million, and all was right with the world when, once he landed, he fell to his knees and uplifted his fists in triumph.
This amazing test of the human spirit and body is certainly admirable, I suppose. But is plummeting from the edge of space at 833.9 miles per hour really necessary to reflect that?
Is it the adrenaline rush, the attention or a true need to facilitate mankind that makes someone basically jump from space and free fall back to earth? What drives people to risk just about anything to prove a point that may or may not be beneficial to future generations?
The answer: Who knows?
But I guess it’s preferable to running for president.

Angela Rogalski is a print journalism senior who lives in Abbeville. Follow her on Twitter @abbeangel.