As soon as Felix Baumgartner landed safely from his 24-mile jump from the Earth’s stratosphere, the Internet got to work doing what it does best: parsing out every bit of the historic event for comedy.
In Tuesday’s Style section, we considered the meaning of Baumgartner’s jump, from its implications for commercial space travel to the way the stunt is playing out among those who make memes. It’s been an inspiration for the latter, especially. Take a look:
If you want to know what that felt like, just zoom all the way out on Google Earth and click the scroll bar until you reach the ground.— Felix Baumgartner (@FeIixBaumgarter) October 14, 2012
Baumgartner’s jump broke another kind of record: According to YouTube, the live stream attracted the most concurrent views ever for the video-sharing website. More than seven million of us tuned in, and Ron Fugelseth and his four-year-old son, Jayden, were among them. But they saw it through a different pair of eyes: In August, the pair had attemped their own weather balloon free-fall, but with a camera rigged up to the boy’s favorite toy train, Stanley. The video, “A Toy Train in Space,” has gotten more than three million views on YouTube.
“I tried to let him know, this is how far Stanley went up,” Fugelseth said, though Jayden wasn’t willing to sit still through Baumgartner’s entire ascent. “I thought it was great. It was funny to think, in a small way, I did a really cheap version of this.”
But not all of the memes were intended to be funny. Some captured the immensity of what Baumgartner did, and the wonder of what it’s like to look down at the Earth from space. As I wrote in the story:
Part of the shared experience of seeing Baumgartner’s jump was the fear that anything could go wrong. You can watch the first two minutes of the jump as a horror movie: In a gif of Baumgartner’s jump, the daredevil steps up to the edge of his capsule, steps off and disappears from view within four seconds of free fall, as if he was swallowed by the Earth below. The gif loops over and over, but grows no less terrifying each time.