Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
The July issue of Esquire profiles a guy named Felix Baumgartner, who is trying to set the world record for the farthest free fall. He will ride a balloon up 23 miles into the stratosphere and fall from there. (Red Bull is all over this.) It’s so high up, in fact, that he’ll need to wear a spacesuit to do it. The company making that suit: Worcester’s own David Clark Company. From the article:
For example, if the visor of the David Clark Company pressure suit that Felix will be wearing were to unexpectedly pop open, as did the visor of the David Clark Company pressure suit that Nick was wearing, several things would happen in quick succession.
First, the air in his lungs would instantly multiply 120 times over in volume. If Felix reacts to the shock of the explosive decompression by holding his breath, his lungs will rupture like overinflated balloons. If he does let the air escape through his mouth and nose, he will soon experience the novel sensation of the saliva on his tongue beginning to boil. He will be nearly sixty thousand feet above “Armstrong’s Line,” where water’s boiling point drops to 98.6 degrees. Within moments, the water in his subcutaneous tissues will begin vaporizing as well. This, in combination with the expansion of any interior gases — unfarted methane in his guts, for example — will, in a process called ebullism, quickly cause Felix’s own body to inflate, becoming as tumescent as a bodybuilder’s. Useful consciousness, mercifully, will be gone within fifteen seconds, probably sooner, though he might remain alive, swelling, distorting, for five to eight minutes.
The “Nick” referenced above is Nick Piantanida, who attempted a jump from this height in 1966. It did not go well. “I’m not worried about the suit,” Baumgartner says. (In video, linked to above.)
David Clark has most recently been in the news because of their proximity to CSX’s rail yard expansion, but this is much cooler.