Branson Leverages Baumgartner's Record Jump

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The ever adventurous and publicity-savvy Sir Richard Branson Thursday recognized Felix Baumgartner's Red Bull-sponsored record freefall by also telling the world his company once considered a jump from 400,000 feet -- and might consider it, again. In a blog post at Virgin.com Branson says his people were approached in 2005 by an individual who wanted to use SpaceShipOne for such a jump. The craft would carry the jumper to its apogee at 400,000 feet where the parachutist, clad in a fully pressurized spacesuit, would simply exit. The jumper would return via freefall and parachute. Meanwhile, a pilot (also wearing a spacesuit) would remain with the craft and its life support systems to guide their safe return. Branson says the trip "is theoretically possible" but the attempt was preempted by other factors.

At the time in 2005 when Branson's team was approached, SpaceShipOne was being removed from testing and placed at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. But, says Branson, technology marches forward every day and "we look forward to taking on new challenges as we move closer towards commercial space flight." He goes on to suggest that "the next record leap could one day be from Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo." In keeping with his reputation for adventure, Branson signs off by saying, "Haven't had a challenge myself for a while. Could be fun for Virgin to give Red Bull a run for their money." Baumgartner's 128,000-foot plunge on October 14, 2012, broke at least two records that stood for more than 50 years. He set the new mark for highest-ever parachute jump and highest manned balloon flight. He is also believed to have reached 1.24 Mach during freefall.