Editorial: Essential viewing

23:16, Oct 15 2012

It's not often a parachute jump will have you transfixed to the screen.

Unless it's from the edge of space, where the world looks like, well . . . the world.

But millions watched yesterday morning as Felix Baumgartner jumped from a capsule 38.6km above Earth. For interest's sake, that's Timaru to Geraldine, plus a bit.

So close was he to space I wondered when he stepped out of his capsule whether he'd go up or down, but having got that bit right the rest was easy.

Just fall . . . for more than nine minutes.

During which time he became the first man to break the sound barrier without the assistance of a jet engine, and to record the highest skydive.


To which I can hear you say . . . so?

Yet millions around the world were transfixed?

Was it because we were told the jump was being broadcast live (probably), or because we were waiting for something to go wrong (probably again), or because this was just something different in a world when not much is these days (yes, probably again).

There was a worrying moment when Baumgartner was obviously not in control, and then cheers when the rag doll stopped looking like a rag doll. And more cheers when his chute opened. And more again when he landed on the Moon, sorry, Earth.

Then we switch camera and discover mission control, which answered the question we've all being asking: "Where did all the redundant Nasa workers go?"

And when it was all over there were more questions. What was the point of that? What a waste of money? When can I have a turn? What do I need to do to make sure I never get a turn?

To which the answers are:

Because no-one else has, and there are some scientific benefits around human limits and spacesuits.

It's his money and he can do with it as he wishes, and who is to say he didn't make on the deal. The sponsor's name was rather prominent.

And no, you can't have a turn. It took five years to put this jump together.

So we'll carry on living our ordinary lives, and Baumgartner . . . is going to retire. In one piece.

But thanks Felix for giving us something different. Even if a little pointless.

The Timaru Herald