Fearless Felix and ‘Major Tom'
For some strange reason, the song “Major Tom” by David Bowie came floating into my head Monday. I guess my head was still in the clouds over the absolutely amazing fete by Felix Baumgartner on Sunday.
Wow!, is all I can say.
For those who don’t know, Baumgartner is the guy who calmly slipped out of a small space capsule 24 miles above earth and then quickly — very quickly — fell to ground, landing on his feet some 9 minutes after he left the capsule.
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control,” filled my head as I watched in astonishment the man fly like a bullet. He fell without a chute for more than 119,000 feet — that’s more than 22 miles. For a while he appeared out of control — the biggest fear of everyone — but then he regained control, sped toward earth and then opened his chute and softly floated the last several thousand feet to earth.
Before he opened his chute, however, he hit 833.9 mph and broke the sound barrier.
I have always marveled at those who traveled in space — John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and others — but this guy has got to top them all. He flew in space without a spacecraft. He was carried to the heavens by a helium balloon, but his ride down was all him and a spacesuit that obviously was very well constructed.
If you haven’t seen the tape, it is worth watching. I doubt you’ll get the anxiety or excitement from it that those who watched it live, but it is amazing to watch. And, if you skip most of the ascent, it only takes about 15 minutes to watch.
Watching it brought back memories of those moments when you held your breath in the 1960s as the Mercury astronauts came back to earth, wondering if they’d make it back alive. It also reminded me of that Bowie song:
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today”
I wonder of those lyrics went through Fearless Felix’ mind as he fell to earth Sunday?
Rick Elkins is editor of the Porterville Recorder. He can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1040, or by e-mail at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.