A team of researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, in
coordination with the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aerospacial Esteban
Terradas (INTA – Esteban Terradas National Institute of Aerospace
Technology), is preparing for a person to jump from an altitude of
38,000 metres, on the edge of the stratosphere. This will be the
highest altitude from which anybody has ever jumped, allowing for the
first ever studies of human behaviour in such an extreme situation.

Parachutist Miguel Angel García, from the Para-Sport S.A parachuting
consultancy, is preparing for this immense jump under the control of
a team of scientists from the UAB and INTA directed by Enric Domingo,
professor at the Medical Physiology Unit of the Department of Cellular
Biology, Physiology and Immunology at the UAB and a doctor in the
Cardiology Service at the Vall d’Hebron Hospital (Barcelona); in
collaboration with the researchers Santiago Estaún, Joan López-Moliner
and Ramón Cladellas of the Basic Psychology Unit at the Department of
Education Psychology at the UAB, along with researchers Miquel Àngel
Piera and Jordi Serra of the Simgrup Simulation Centre in the UAB’s
Department of Telecommunication and Engineering Systems.

Using virtual-fall simulation conditions developed by the UAB’s
Simgrup Simulation Centre, the researchers have carried out both
medical and psychological assessments of the parachutist who will be
making the jump, so as to verify his speed and abilities when faced
with the need to take crucial decisions. Thanks to the collaboration
of the Spanish Air Force (EADA), the parachutist has also made real
preparatory jumps at the Zaragoza Military Base from altitudes of
3480 m, 3500 m and 5350 m.

The research forms part of the ICARO project, financed by the Programa
Nacional de Investigación Espacial (National Programme of Space
Investigation – Special Action ESP98-0519-E) in collaboration with the
Fundació Empresa i Ciència (Business and Science Foundation) at the
UAB itself, a project that investigates human behaviour in extreme
situations. The researchers are now seeking funding for the preliminary
phases and the definitive jump, which will need both private and public

The last time a jump like this was attempted was on August 16th 1960,
when the US aviation coronel J.W.Kittinger successfully jumped from an
altitude of 32,000 metres. However, lack of detailed analysis for that
jump practically renders it redundant as a scientific experiment.
Since Kittinger’s jump, two civilian jumps, also in the United States,
ended in the deaths of both parachutists due to the depressurising of
their equipment.

This type of jump is particularly outstanding because it brings a human
being so close to the limits of the stratosphere, where environmental
conditions (which include, among other things, the reduction of
atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels, temperatures of around 50
degrees below zero, falling at high speed, distorted vision as a result
of the lack of oxygen, and excessive luminosity and radiation) are very
different to those of commercial aviation, or even those conditions
faced by military aviation and missions in space. Such a jump requires
both adequate equipment (pressurised and thermal gear, strong solar
protection, etc.) and training, and the parachutists has to meet
certain special physical and personal requisites.

Conditions most similar to this jump in which the behaviour of the
human body has previously been studied have either been those at above
38,000 metres, such as studies undertaken by astronauts in orbit, or
those below such an altitude, such as military personnel studied at
altitudes of around 10,000 metres.

This study is not only interesting from the point of view of its
applications to aerospace, but also because it will provide
information on the physiological and psychological adaptation of
human beings when confronted by high-stress situations, as a result
of the loss of senses, mobility and the restricted vision suffered
throughout the fall. This research will be of particular importance
to the training of personnel who need to confront high-stress
situations. These include aviation pilots, fire-fighters, police
and members of other organisations providing emergency aid. The
study will also be important for the training of athletes involved
in extreme sports such as Formula 1, ski jumping and motorbike races.
Additionally, the simulation tools developed by the UAB researchers
will prove useful to projects researching road and rail safety.

Notes for editor

Contact Researcher:

Miquel Angel Piera

Departament de Telecomunicació i d’Enginyeria de Sistemes

Tel: +34 93 581 35 03

Mobile: +34 639 75 61 93



[Image 1:
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Testing the connection of the mask to guarantee maximum denitrification.

[Image 2:
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Members of the scientific team at the CIMA (Centro de Instrucción de
Medicina Aeroespacial – Aerospace Medicine Training Centre) in Madrid.

[Image 3:
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Minutes before entering the Low Pressure Chamber.