ROSWELL, NM - Multiple records achieved by Felix Baumgartner only days ago have already been broken, after former record-holders came out of retirement for the most amazing game of one-upsmanship the world has ever seen.
Baumgartner -- an Austrian military paratrooper -- successfully ascended to the edge of space earlier this week in a balloon and then skydived back to earth, gaining a record for greatest altitude jump and free-fall velocity.
89 year-old General (Ret) Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier on Oct 14, 1947, repeated his historic flight 65 years to the minute, this time rocketing past the speed of sound in an F-15D, on the same day as Baumgartner’s record breaking leap.
After the General landed, he borrowed a nearby airman’s cell phone and texted a picture of himself in the cockpit to Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Joe Kittinger, advisor to Baumgartner, and holder of the original sky-diving altitude record, while suggestively grabbing his crotch and pointing at the sky.
Although the Duffel Blog was unable to obtain a copy of the text, witnesses reported that it said “Joe, I just wanted you to know, it’s hard to fit balls like these in a G-Suit.”
The message was a double blow to the former fighter pilot and Vietnam POW, who had just witnessed Baumgartner break his long-held record as the highest and fastest skydiver on the planet after almost 40 years.
Some insiders believe the animosity between the two men stems from a drunken comment made by Yeager during a 1995 aviation pioneers conference, at which both were keynote speakers. During his speech, Yeager apparently turned to Kittinger and said, “sorry about the movie Joe. Guess you didn’t have the ‘Right Stuff’”, which prompted waves of laughter from the audience.
The animosity had grown over the years, and while other acclaimed pilots and astronauts had attempted to disarm the feud between the two men, the impressive service record shared between them ensured no other person had the credentials to intrude on the epic dick-measuring contest that has now spanned over half a century.
The only documented instance of another man silencing the two was when Neil Armstrong interrupted a particularly heated argument during an Air Force Academy function, asking Yeager "how it felt to walk on the moon." After an awkward silence, Kittenger asked those guests in attendance to leave the hall. To this day, Academy faculty are still unsure what transpired, but cadets still report that spending more than ten minutes in the room will trigger spontaneous erections in male flight candidates.
Shortly after receiving the inflammatory text from Yeager, during a media event in which a Red Bull public relations team was giving journalists a tour of their Roswell research facility, Kittinger noticed that the helium balloon and pressurized space suit used for Baumgartner's effort had been left unattended.
Kittinger snuck away from the group, discretely put on the suit, rigged his parachute, and climbed inside the balloon's fiberglass capsule. Then he ascended 40,000 meters into the sky without assistance from mission control, or any type of supplemental oxygen.
By the time anyone noticed Kittinger had taken the balloon, he was already halfway to the stratosphere.
"We got on the radio and tried to talk him down," said Rod Dowley, Red Bull Vice President of Marketing. "He responded, but it was garbled--something about how you can't keep brass balls on the ground, and to tell Yeager to suck it."
Once he reached a height of 40,500 meters, Kittinger opened the capsule door, gave a one fingered salute and jumped. The octogenarian's body streaked through the atmosphere at 912 miles (1448 km) per hour, allowing him to reclaim the records for highest skydive, highest balloon ascent, and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.
After nearly four and a half minutes of free fall, Kittinger's parachute opened. He glided safely to the ground, landing in the middle of a confused but impressed crowd of journalists and rescue personnel.
"I feel a little bad about the whole thing," Kittinger said during a hasty post-jump press conference. "Everyone's been saying how classy I've been about passing the torch and all that, and I think Felix really is a great guy. All I can say is, records are made to be broken.”
He then looked directly into the cameras and added, “just like the sound barrier Chuck! And I didn’t need a damn jet engine to do it either!"
Colonel Kittinger suddenly cut the rest of the press conference short, saying, "Sorry, folks, I've got to go. I'm competing in a motorcycle race in like 15 minutes."
General Yeager was also unavailable for comment, as he was currently en-route to New York City where he was planning on BASE jumping from the top of the Freedom Tower.