What is extreme skydiving

When Felix Baumgartner talks about himself, it sometimes sounds as if he had given his sentences a testosterone injection beforehand. "I've always wanted to be at the top. My whole life has been focused on getting there. But the higher you go, the lower you fall. That's what most people fear. I don't."

This Tuesday, the 43-year-old Austrian adventurer actually wants to be at the top. If wind and weather cooperate, a giant helium balloon will carry it over the New Mexico desert and into the stratosphere, to an altitude of 36,576 meters (120,000 feet). Once there, Baumgartner wants to open the hatch of his flight capsule, smile at the live camera with a pressure suit on and a parachute on his back - and hop out.

If all goes well, the records will tumble that day. The highest manned balloon flight. The highest jump with a parachute. The longest free fall, in meters and seconds. And the fastest: up to 1,100 kilometers per hour. Supersonic speed. If something goes wrong, anything, Baumgartner will probably not survive.

Two questions force themselves to the normal and normally fearful of heights. Who is this guy that friends and helpers call "Fearless Felix", the fearless Felix? And what's the point?

Locksmiths, boxers, paratroopers

The first question is answered quickly. Baumgartner, a trained machine fitter and former boxer with an angular chin and a sense of self-expression, climbed every tree as a child and learned to parachute at the age of 16. Later he hopped out of airplanes for the Austrian military. But in the long run he couldn't deal with the hierarchy. The young paratrooper, says his former company commander in the film "The Felix Baumgartner Story", gave him "a lot of gray hair".

After the military, Baumgartner becomes a professional base jumper, financed by the same Austrian brewing company that still supports him today. In the high-risk sport, in which you parachute from houses, rocks or bridges, he is quickly regarded as one of the most daring. He hops from the tallest skyscrapers and into the deepest caves. Once it races across the English Channel, only attached to carbon wings. In six and a half minutes.

The question of meaning remains. Is that, isn't such a life for the thrill Kokolores? From the point of view of many people, yes. Too much testosterone, some scoff. What good could have been done with the money, the others complain. Baumgartner himself referred to the meticulous planning of his team before his current jump. To the interest of science in the consequences of its supersonic freefall. But his most beautiful answer to the incomprehensible people of reason is a bit older. It's a quote from another frontier worker, Jim Morrison: "I'll get my kick before this shit house is on fire."