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Baumgartner Blasts Branson, Blows NewSpace Cred

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 27, 2012
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There was a fair amount of coverage on space blogs earlier t his month about Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos skydiving adventure, in which he set a new world record by jumping from 128,100 feet (nearly 24 miles).

And why not? He ascended in a pressurized vessel that looked kind of like a space capsule wearing something very similar to a spacesuit to an altitude well above a good portion of the atmosphere. Space enthusiasts made the quick leap of imagination to a whole new sport of space diving, with daredevils jumping to Earth from suborbital space and, ultimately, orbit.

Well, just fahgedaboutit! Baumgartner says that’s a terrible idea. And he has some choice words for Richard Branson and Mars exploration.

The Virgin Galactic founder wrote in a recent blog post that his company might try to break Baumgartner’s record by having someone jump out of the SpaceShipTwo vehicle, which will fly suborbital missions up to 361,000ft (110 kilometers/68.4 miles).

“The technology of space travel and exploration is moving forwards every day. Who knows, the next record leap could one day be from Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.  Haven’t had a challenge myself for a while. Could be fun for Virgin to give Red Bull a run for their money,” Branson wrote.

“Completely insane,” Bamgartner told The Daily Telegraph, accusing the British billionaire of a lame attempt to gain cheap publicity from his achievement.

“It sounds like kind of a joke because it looks like he wants to use our positive momentum and gain publicity on his side and that is kind of lame,” Baumgartner said. “You have seen on TV how hard it is to go up 129,000ft and how hard it is to come down.”

The Austrian skydiver also opined about what he sees as humanity’s misplaced interest in exploring the Red Planet.

“A lot of guys they are talking about landing on Mars,” he said. “Because [they say] it is so important to land on Mars because we would learn a lot more about our planet here, our Earth, by going to Mars which actually makes no sense to me because we know a lot about Earth and we still treat our planet, which is very fragile, in a really bad way.”

Chances are Baumgartner is not going to be invited to any NewSpace conferences or NASA centers any time soon.

Read the full interview.