Days after being delayed due to poor weather conditions, an Austrian adrenaline-junkie leaps from a craft on the edge of space, breaking the sound barrier as he plummets 24 miles back home to Earth.
No, this isn’t the plot of the one 90s cyberpunk movie that you’re missing in your collection.
As many of you (roughly 8 million) already witnessed, Felix Baumgartner executed a nearly flawless, record-breaking jump from the stratosphere last night, hurtling him into aerospace history and inevitable fame, making him the most interesting little white blip on a screen since Atari introduced PONG in 1972. While we recognize the absurd amount of cojones (or insanity) that it takes to skydive from 24 miles up, we really couldn’t resist geeking out about the ridiculous amount of software development and testing that it took to make this whole thing possible!
Unlike those of Evil Knievel, which required some level of math and statistical analysis, this jump was a full-fledged lesson in software and human load testing.
“Baumgartner himself will be advancing the science of how the human body responds to the upper atmosphere, just as many test pilots did before him,” Margaret Weitekamp, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum, told USA Today.
And not only was Baumgartner’s body being tested, but the software and hardware that kept him in one piece was also being put to the test. In fact, prior to the record-breaking jump, Baumgartner complained of a lack of heat to his helmet, a glitch that nearly halted the jump for the third time in less than a week. During the jump, Baumgartner complained that his visor was fogging up, a problem that was supposed to be solved by a heating circuit that was implanted in the mask. Even with these minor issues, the suit itself is a glorious piece of technological gold.
“Full-pressure space suits have never been qualified for the kind of controlled free fall that Felix must execute to return safely to Earth,” explains the Red Bull Stratos website. “Proof that a full-pressure suit could provide protection from such a bailout will be valuable for aerospace safety researchers,”
After landing in Roswell, New Mexico (tell me that’s a coincidence) Baumgartner explained that the awesome pressurized space suit he was wearing kept him from actually feeling anything as he broke the sound barrier, careening to the ground at 834 miles per hour, or mach 1.24. Any issues with this suit, whether software- or hardware-based, could have caused his lungs to explode or his blood to literally boil.
Although developing or testing software in your organization might not feel as threatening as a jump from the edge of space, with colleagues, customers and partners waiting for software results, ship dates and ROI, you could argue the similarities.
The process and careful planning that was necessary to make the jump possible correlates directly to the Agile testing methodologies that can mean the difference between software that works and software that, well, doesn’t work. Rather than recognizing what needed to be done, building all the necessary parts, and executing a single jump, Baumgartner and his team paced themselves by starting with smaller jumps, gathering data, testing that data, and then implementing changes as they steadily increased altitudes, ending in a quality result.
Finally, and forgive me for repeating myself, but it’s worth mentioning that along with the other records Baumgartner broke during his jump, this event also shattered the record for most viewers to a live stream event on YouTube with 8 million. Seriously, 8 million! Talk about a real-time load test for YouTube! The Summer Olympics was a huge live stream event and didn’t even break the 1 million mark.
Okay, okay, that’s enough tech-talk for now. But before you leave, you MUST check out this amazingly scientific re-enactment of this historic event that we came across on Youtube.