It seems a little risky to sponsor a daredevil in a stunt that could, if things go wrong, result in his body exploding 22 miles above the Earth. But Red Bull is willing to take that chance.
The energy drink is in the final stages of its Red Bull Stratos project, in which it is helping a 42-year-old Austrian madman named Felix Baumgartner try to set a new record for the highest skydive in history—from 120,000 feet up. Baumgartner, whose previous larks have included jumping off the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, will fall so fast in his upcoming jump—from the edge of space down to the desert near Roswell, N.M.—that he will become the first human to break the sound barrier unaided by a machine. If successful, Baumgartner will beat a record set way back in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, the former U.S. Air Force pilot who jumped out of a balloon at 102,800 feet as part of the famed Project Excelsior.
As Red Bull well knows, the success of this stunt has nothing to do with what kind of energy drink Baumgartner consumes, and everything to do with his space suit. If the suit is breached in the high atmosphere, he will almost certainly die. (The suit has survived testing that recreated the flight conditions inside a pressurized capsule.) Even if the suit is fine, Baumgartner will have to withstand the force of breaking the sound barrier, and then make sure he doesn't spin out of control so he is eventually able to deploy his parachute.
Baumgartner and Kittinger both appear in the video below promoting the jump. (They still haven't settled on a date, but it's expected to be soon.) For Red Bull, helping to push the limits of human achievement is obviously a good strategy—and the dangerous nature of this one will earn plenty of attention and credibility for the brand. The project also has a larger goal in mind—that of delivering valuable learnings for medical and scientific advancement that will aid the exploration of space in future years.
Let's just hope he makes it.