Google Senior Vice President Robert Alan Eustace, a 25-year pilot with airplane, multiengine, instrument, seaplane, and balloon ratings (plus a Cessna 500-series jet rating), has taken the world record for the highest parachute jump, soaring above the 127,852 mark set by Red Bull-sponsored Felix Baumgartner of Austria by 8,000 feet, to 135,908 feet. He was lifted in a life-support suit (no capsule) via helium balloon to 25.7 miles, nearly halfway to what is considered the boundary of space.
Eustace compared his innovative suit to that used by undersea divers. It was built by Paragon Space Development’s Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. Employees in Paragon’s Houston and Denver offices participated as well. The company also produced the balloon and support systems with a team of companies, including ILS, United Parachute, ADE Technologies, World View Enterprises, and four experts.
And now for the really good news: You get to do it too. World View Enterprises plans to build a capsule to take six people, at $75,000 each, and two pilots up to 100,000 feet hanging beneath a steerable parasail attached to a balloon. They promise not to spill your drinks. First passengers may go as soon as 2016, but first things first; there is as yet no full-scale capsule. A 10-percent scale model was tested in June 2014 (see the video here). Like Paragon, World View is headquartered in Tucson. Pilots will guide you back there, or an automated system is capable of returning the capsule to the launch site via parasail if the pilots get lost.