On paper, it sounded like a simple enough concept. Felix Baumgartner, sponsored by Red Bull, would pilot a balloon called “stratos” to an altitude of 120,000 feet. One there, he’d step out of the basket and free fall to a reasonable altitude, breaking the speed of sound on the way down. The list of things that could go wrong was extensive, and none of them seemed like a particularly pleasant way to die. Brain hemorrhage, anyone? How about hypoxia?
Strangely, what did go wrong occurred in a California courtroom, when Daniel Hogan sued Red Bull for stealing his idea. Hogan alleges he pitched the idea to Red Bull in 2004, and that Red Bull shot him down. Hogan claims that the ad revenue associated with the jump would be worth between $375 million and $625 million, so he’s seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
Red Bull denies that they’ve done anything wrong, but has agreed to stop the jump until the case has been resolved. For now, at least, the free fall altitude record set by Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger (102,800 feet) back in 1960 remains safe. I’m sure as hell not going to give it a try.