Vanity Fair’s William Langewiesche takes a behind the scenes look at what drove Felix Baumgartner from being a stunt jumper to stepping out of a capsule 24 miles above New Mexico. Grab a few Red Bulls and read all about the man who pierced the sky (and the world of brand advertising).
His goal now was to break the altitude record for a human free fall, and in the process also to exceed the speed of sound. Otherwise known as Mach 1, that speed varies with temperature but is upwards of 660 miles per hour. Baumgartner was not there to advance mankind. That was for others to claim, if they liked. His own purpose was promotional. He was a showman for the Red Bull company, which had plowed a fortune into this endeavor in order to associate its energy drink with his feats. Baumgartner, who was 43 at the time, is certainly a manly man. He is photogenic. He is fit. His fiancée was Miss Lower Austria in 2006. When he furrows his brow he looks determined and intense. On-camera he becomes the very image of a middle-aged action figure, the perfect emblem for an important market segment of middle-aged men. When I drink Red Bull, I go supersonic. I am fearless. I am an Übermensch.