The Red Bull Stratos project may have attracted a record number of viewers but it failed to deliver much of real scientific value, according to experts.
Even scientists working in extreme sportsman Felix Baumgartner’s hometown of Salzburg who carefully followed the project said that from a scientific point of view it delivered nothing.
In Austria the jump attracted the same number of visitors on TV as watched the Natasha Kampusch interview which was the most viewed ever TV broadcast in the country’s history – with over 2 million viewers.
As well as unofficially breaking three world records, experts say that the marketing success the project was not arguable – but from a scientific point of view there was little if nothing that had been gained.
Physicist Werner Hofmann from the University of Salzburg said: “The study of physics had nothing to learn from this experiment.”
Even Austria’s only astronaut Franz Viehboeck, 52, who spent a week in space on board the Soyuz space station, said he doubted that there was a advantage to space travel to be had from the stunt.
Viehboeck became famous because his wife gave birth to their baby Carina while he was on the mission – and said that he had been asked to do some of the commentary for the stunt – but he declined because he was not in the country at the time.
The Stratos team had frequently referred to the scientific advantages of their project, but he said that the two were not comparable.
He said: “As a spacemen you enter the atmosphere in a craft which has a speed of around 28,000kph. As you begin to brake it generates enormous amounts of strain. In contrast Baumgartner jumped from a height of 38 kilometers out of the capsule and went from a speed of nothing up to close to 800kph. These two things don’t have anything with each other to do. Even the suggestion of a benefit for possible space tourism as being organised by virgin Galactic is unlikely.
He added: “I have seen that some people have compared this with the landing on the moon but from a technical point of view you absolutely can’t compare them. What Felix did was a one-man show. There was a lot of PR behind it and although I have absolute respect for his courage and I would never have done it – I don’t see any point in it. It didn’t have anything to do with science.
“Astronauts who are coming in for a landing are lying down and strapped in, and have to undergo enormous G forces from the braking of the craft. Even the plasma glass around the spacecraft starts to burn. With a temperature of 1000°C flammable pieces of the craft start to break off. Only the thick insulation protects the main body of the craft. In a situation like that I cannot imagine anybody exiting the craft.”
He said the problem areas that really needed to deal with for space travel were take off, landing and manoeuvring between for example the spacecraft and the space station. He said: “If something were to to go wrong it would probably be at this point and not anywhere else.”
Even sports expert Erich Müller from University of Salzburg rejected the suggestion that the stunt was an extreme sport.
He said: “In the true sense of the word it was not an extreme sport. It was an extreme situation that was very well calculated and therefore had a carefully calculated race included.
“It was technically extremely well-prepared and very professionally organised – and the work that went into the project was fantastic. But if we are talking about a first-class effort in any sphere than it was a first-class effort in marketing.”