Plastics take a man to space, and bring him back down to Earth again.

15 October 2012
Did you watch the amazing feat of Felix Baumgartner along with millions of people around the world last night? 

The Mission
Red Bull Stratos is a scientific mission to 120,000 ft. Jumping from a stratospheric balloon one man will attempt to break the speed of sound in freefall.

The Balloon

Type: The balloon is filled with helium to create lift. Helium is non-flammable, non-toxic if vented to the atmosphere and a safe, predictable method of ascent.
Material: It is constructed of strips of high-performance polyethylene (plastic) film that is only 0.0008 inches thick. In total, these strips would cover 40 acres if they were laid flat. Polyester-fibre reinforced load tapes are incorporated to do the weight bearing.

051283ce-4b5e-49e9-902a-f9729cdba3b6.jpg Photograph courtesy Jörg Mitter, Red Bull Content Pool

The Parachute

No personal parachute system has ever been used for a supersonic freefall from the edge of space. Years of development and testing have resulted in innovations including revolutionary drogue technology to stabilize Felix Baumgartner if necessary.


Balazs Gardi/

Most normal parachutes are made of Nylon so it is probably safe to assume that this one was too.

Some people are comparing this record attempt as this generation's Moon landing, I am not sure that that is true but without the engagement of new materials including plastics, neither mission would have been possible.

Well done Felix!

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)