Going over Niagara: Stunts can still inspire awe of the world in us



It used to be, the world was filled with wonder and excitement. In today’s age of Wikipedia and the Internet, there’s not much that goes on unnoticed by the whole world and even large events can seem mundane, given the sheer amount of information coming our way.

A civil war in Syria? Catch News at 11. New terracotta men found in China? Bor-ring! New species of insect? Buzz off!

The world can seem so boring.

What happened to people riding barrels over Niagara Falls? Or sailing around the world in 80 days? Or walking a tight rope across two skyscrapers? These miraculous feats once made people sit up and think, “Wow, the world is an amazing place filled with interesting people.”

How long has it been since we did that?

I can’t think of the last time a single person captured my attention quite like those feats would have (with the exception of PSY and his “Gangnam Style” music video – really, it’s catchy!).

Actually I can recall the last time — the man who jumped from space! Now that’s interesting!

For those who missed it, professional madman stuntman Felix Baumgartner went up in a balloon and then down by himself.

Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission that was designed to improve the scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space. This included breaking the sound barrier without a vehicle.

Taking off Oct. 14 from Roswell (N.M.), Baumgartner reached a height of just over 128,000 feet above the Earth. He stepped out of the capsule, looked down and fell. As he fell, he reached speeds of more than 833 mph, falling for just over nine minutes, four of which were without a parachute open.

The stunt was exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane.

Looking at the photos, it’s hard to believe they are not from a film. You can see the curve of the Earth, the continents below his feet and this one man standing above it all.

And he survived. He actually landed on his feet.

And it was all caught on film. Live. For the world to see.

How exciting is that?

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