“I’ll probably feel the most anxious when I’m trying to sleep in the hours before I start getting ready – when everything’s quiet and it’s just me and my thoughts.” – Felix Baumgartner’s thoughts as he gets closer to launch time.
Here’s the plan leading up to launch time:
Launch Minus 24 Hours: Baumgartner will start the day before the jump with a light cardio-based workout, mostly to “relax and loosen up,” according to Red Bull High Performance Director Andy Walshe.
Minus 18h30: The 43-year-old Austrian will return to his hotel to rest up. If he’s not ready to nap, Baumgartner can pass the time talking with his close friends and family, reading messages of support that have been pouring in from around the globe, drawing in his sketchbook – a pastime that he says helps to clear his mind – or mentally reviewing his checklists for the mission.
Minus 13h30: Baumgartner will join members of the crew for a light early dinner, but the food on his plate will be unique. For at least 24 hours before his jump, he must stick to a low-fiber diet prescribed by the mission’s medical team. It is vital for him to eat only foods that will clear his system quickly, without leaving residue that could create gas: a condition that can cause problems in the low-pressure of the stratosphere because it can expand in the body and cause serious discomfort.
Minus 12h00: Baumgartner will attempt to get to sleep early – before the sun has even set. He’ll try to eliminate every glimmer of outside light and shut out the noise of circulation fans or other guests in the halls. It is essential that he try to get some sleep before his pre-dawn wake-up call, even though he will certainly be wondering what he’ll experience in his attempt to become the first person to break the speed of sound in freefall.
Minus 4h30: “When I need to ready, I’m always ready,” Baumgartner often says. And while he will try to sleep as long as possible, he’ll need to rise four to five hours before dawn to be ready for the intense day ahead.
Minus 3h30: Baumgartner will arrive at the launch site, accompanied by Walshe. Mission team leaders including Col. Joe Kittinger, Technical Project Director Art Thompson, and Meteorologist Don Day will provide a personal briefing on the launch preparations so far, which will have been underway for five hours.
Minus 4h00: Baumgartner will head to the runway where, as is habitual for the experienced pilot before every flight, he will conduct a meticulous inspection of the capsule.
Minus 2h30: In Baumgartner’s personal trailer, he will undergo a final medical check, and a compact, state-of-the-art physiological monitoring system will be strapped to his chest to be worn under his pressure suit throughout the mission.
Minus 2h00: Life Support Engineer Mike Todd will dress Baumgartner in his suit, a painstaking process, and the Austrian will ‘pre-breathe’ oxygen for two hours to eliminate nitrogen from his bloodstream, which could expand dangerously at altitude. Videos will help pass the time as he awaits the announcement that his balloon inflation has begun and he can move to the capsule.
Minus 0h30: Baumgartner will be strapped into his capsule chair to conduct final instrument checks as directed by Mission Control. Then Capsule Engineer Jon Wells will seal the clear acrylic door. For a several more long minutes of anticipation, Baumgartner will await countdown and, finally, launch.