We were mighty impressed earlier this week with the daring exploits of Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who completed a record jump from more than 24 miles above the earth, reaching a free-fall speed of 833.9 miles per hour, the first man to break the speed of sound without an airplane.
We wondered, as we always do when someone attempts an incredibly dangerous and seemingly needless stunt, why he would do it. Is it necessary to know that a man can survive a fall from that height, at supersonic speeds? Did we need to know whether Evel Knievel could jump Snake River Canyon with a steam powered rocket?
Probably, Baumgartner jumped from that height because no one else ever had, and there seems to be an insatiable need in some humans to be the first and the best to do something.
There is a practical application to his derring-do. NASA engineers are hoping the information gained from his jump will lead to the design of better escape and survival equipment for high-altitude pilots and space travelers. Some lives could be saved.
That is indeed a good thing. In the meantime, we are glad that Baumgartner survived his jump. We're sure he enjoyed it. We enjoyed it, too.