NGC special will chronicle Felix Baumgartner’s epic space jump

Updated Oct. 25, 2012, 9:45am CT

If you were one of the millions who watched Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking free-fall jump this past Sunday — when he became the first person to free fall while breaking the sound barrier — you know what an impressive accomplishment it was. This feat, and the work leading up to it, will be chronicled in an exclusive two-hour special airing in November on National Geographic Channel (NGC).

UPDATE: NGC has announced the air date for the special. It will premiere Nov. 11 at 7pm ET/PT.

The special, called Space Dive, will be a co-production between the BBC, Red Bull Media House and NGC. The production crew detailed every second of the attempt with more than 20 cameras, and this footage will be combined with exclusive behind-the-scenes access following Baumgartner’s four-year metamorphosis from an elite BASE jumper to an extreme altitude specialist who can think and act like an astronaut.

Four years in the making, Space Dive will allow viewers to witness a mission fraught with epic challenges as a team of leading experts in medicine, science and engineering push the boundaries of science to design and to build the equipment needed to get Baumgartner to the edge of space and back safely. The Red Bull Stratos mission served to further the progress of aerospace safety, including the development of a new generation of space suits and parachute systems, the development of protocols for exposure to high altitude, and supersonic acceleration and deceleration. Setting records for the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere, Baumgartner’s epic journey ended with him raising the flag of the National Geographic Society.

“Felix is an explorer in the truest sense of the word, and National Geographic Channel was honored to be a part of this mission,” said Michael Cascio, EVP of Programming for the National Geographic Channel. “And while the project itself is obviously groundbreaking, our exclusive inside access adds unique insight and perspective into this four-year journey, and is sure to thrill our viewers.”

In August 1960, Colonel Joe Kittinger took one of mankind’s first steps towards space exploration. Leaping from 102,800 feet, Kittinger fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds, reaching a speed of 614 mph, setting records for the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere. Kittinger, now 83, was one of many experts who trained Baumgartner to overcome the many challenges required and to break the records he set as a young test pilot for the benefit of the aerospace community.

The near vacuum of the stratosphere and the perils of travelling faster than the speed of sound make Baumgartner’s space dive all the more audacious. Since Kittinger’s record-setting jump in 1960, two men have died in similar attempts. NGC cameras on the ground in cooperation with the prototype high-altitude and ground-based tracking cameras developed by the Red Bull Media House were there to capture all of the physical and aptitude training that Baumgartner undertook, as well as his test jumps from 71,522 feet and 96,637 feet. While wrestling with a dangerous claustrophobic reaction to his pressure suit that could have jeopardized the mission and ultimately cost him his life, Baumgartner had to endure countless and often times discouraging operational tests in the pressurized suit.

With footage of the jump itself, viewers will be able to share in Felix’s experience every step of the way: launching from the New Mexico desert; climbing 24 miles in a space capsule suspended below a 55-story helium balloon; stepping out at 128,100 feet to see the curvature of the earth; and finally free-falling through the stratosphere at over 700 mph, exceeding the speed of sound with his own body.

Space Dive premieres Nov. 11 at 7pm ET/PT on National Geographic Channel (NGC).

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Courtesy of National Geographic Channel

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