The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Move over Usain Bolt, there's a new world's fastest man!

Olympic fever was running high this summer, and all eyes were on the world record holding sprinter Usain Bolt to see if he could push his speed even higher.

He may not have managed it this time, but he easily reclaimed Olympic gold while his fans cheered on.

Bolt recorded a top speed of 27.44 mile per hour during his record breaking run in 2009.  Last week, however, a daredevil in a space suit broke that record by a mile...

Felix Baumgartner used to be a parachutist in the military, but for the last few years he has had one aim in mind.  He wanted to be the first human to break the speed of sound without an engine.

Sound travels at 343.2 metres per second, or 768mph. Felix was going to jump from a balloon miles above the ground and try to skydive his way into the record books.

If Baumgartner managed it, he would not only be the world's fastest man - he'd be the world's first supersonic man!

Obviously, our supersonic superhero had some help on his way to his world record speed.  Not just from all the crew of technicians, doctors, scientists and engineers who made it possible.  What he needed more than anything was... gravity!

Felix travelled to an amazing height (39,000 metres - four times the height of Mount Everest) in a giant helium balloon.

He was wearing a specially designed suit that not only protected his body from extreme temperatures and fed him oxygen from tanks on his back.  It also allowed him to survive the incredible forces tearing at his body during the jump.

The suit was designed by an engineer called Shane Jacobs. Although it looked quite a lot like an astronauts suit, Shane designed it so that Felix would be able to move much more easily.  This was really important as he had to move his arms, body and legs to stay balanced during the jump.

The work that Shane did on the suit Felix Baumgartner used may end up being used to design new space suits for astronauts that will be easier to use and safer if an accident happens.

Supersonic Man:  making the world a safer place, one space suit at a time!