“It’s the last and greatest stunt challenge on Earth,” says Truglia. “I’m a professional risk assessor, and I’ve come to a level in my professional life where I’m convinced that I can do this.”
He and his team have estimated that he’ll accelerate to a speed of 745 miles an hour and break the sound barrier somewhere around 90,000 feet.
Is there anything that scares him about the jump?
“All of it, actually,” he admits. “The whole thing is scary.” This coming from a guy who has parachuted more than a thousand times and endured a full body burn for two minutes and four seconds. He’s also the British record holder for free diving underwater, having descended 252 feet on a single breath. Truglia can hold his breath underwater for six minutes and 10 seconds.
None of that will mean much if his pressure suit doesn’t work. It’s a Russian model, and that’s about all he’ll say, except that “it’s made by one of the world’s best space suit designers.
“I’m entirely reliant on the suit,” he says. “Above 64,000 feet, if something goes wrong and it depressurizes, I die within about ten seconds.” At that altitude, the weak atmospheric pressure causes gases in the blood to boil.
Is there something useful that might come from his thrill seeking, something applicable to space travel?
“Definitely,” says Truglia. “At some stage, the FAA is going to take a look at space tourism and make these new companies come up with a system to ensure that passengers survive in the event of a depressurization inside the spacecraft. I’m already talking to commercial space tourism companies about making suits for their future clients.”
But those theoretical space tourists would remain inside the rocket plane until it reached a lower altitude. As for whether his jump has direct applications for high-altitude bailout scenarios, Truglia says that work was done by Kittinger decades ago.
“There nothing more to be learned there,” he says. Certainly, any astronaut moving at orbital velocity would burn up on entry into the atmosphere.