Red Bull Stratos - Felix Baumgartner
Red Bull Stratos – Felix Baumgartner (Photo credit: cattias.photos)

Felix Baumgartner and Chuck Yeager have something in common now.  They both know what it’s like to be the first at breaking the sound barrier.

Yeager was the first test pilot to break the barrier on October 14, 1947, when he was dropped in an experimental rocket-propelled Bell X1 jet from a B-29 bomber at an altitude of 45,000 feet.  The feat was made immortal in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff” and the film adaptation that came later.

On Sunday, Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier as a skydiver, plummeting to the ground from a balloon around 24 miles high in the Earth’s atmosphere.  It received a huge amount of attention on the worldwide web as it happened, and it’s still being talked about today.

It takes a lot of guts — some people might say it was craziness — to do what Baumgartner did — stepping into just about the thinnest air possible inside our atmosphere, tumbling dangerously for a while, and reaching speeds around 830 miles per hour inside nothing more than a pressurized suit.

English: Retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager pause...
English: Retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager pauses for a moment while autographing several Edwards Air Force Ball posters at Test Operations here Sept. 21. General Yeager flew an F-16 to Mach 1 at the Air Force Ball and produced a sonic boom commemorating his first supersonic flight 60 years earlier. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What deserves attention along with Baumgertner’s feat was the fact that Yeager himself, at age 89, reenacted his historic sound-breaking flight the same day over the Mojave Desert.

For Yeager, 65 years ago, it took guts to do something no one had ever done before, whether it was in a free-fall or in a rocket-propelled test plane.

It adds an extra touch of coolness to both stories to have them happen on the same day, with Yeager doing it down to the minute of the first time he cracked the speed of sound in 1947.

It takes courage.  It takes “the right stuff.”

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