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(Premiere) Follow this Google Scientist Being Dropped Through the Stratosphere

‘14 Minutes from Earth’ traces the beginning of Alan Eustace’s record-breaking free-fall.

Diana Shi

Diana Shi

All GIFs and screencaps by the author

What does a mild-mannered dad dream of conquering when he hits his late-fifties? Maybe hurtling through space at 800 miles per hour wearing only a space suit. Alan Eustace, a computer scientist and former Google Senior Vice President of Knowledge, endured the task of dropping 135,000 feet through the earth’s stratosphere with only an expandable balloon strapped to his back in 2012. The project eventually earned him the title of highest free-fall in the world. The complete harrowing process, from the initial plans sketched on a napkin three years prior, to the final customized suit, is captured in the 85-minute film, 14 Minutes from Earth.

The setup sounds a lot like the typical daredevil parachuting from a plane, but in Eustace’s case, the singular twist involved less of a jump, and more of a lift followed by a potentially deadly drop. Eustace sacrificed himself in the name of science by committing himself to a mission that turned him into a human spacecraft. The ultimate goal for Eustace involved dropping through the earth’s stratosphere without an outside shell for support—thus launching him “higher than any man has gone without a rocket ship.” 

Soundbites from the film’s preview describe the implicit danger of the 14-minute undertaking while also painting Eustace as more of an accomplished techie than a stuntman with a death wish. In a foreboding voiceover, one source remarks, “We’re dealing with a human life in this endeavor, and we all need to draw our own lines of what is an acceptable risk.”

A preliminary sketch of Eustace's space suit—appropriately drawn on a napkin

Eustace’s wife, Kathy Ann Kwan, shares how many were surprised at her relatively low-key husband’s new project. “People ask me if Alan is in the middle of a mid-life crisis. My response is, this has been going on for years.”

Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, also makes an appearance, genially commenting that “under [Eustace’s] mild manner, is a man of steel.”

Take a look at the full preview of 14 Minutes from Earth right here, before its public release:

14 Minutes from Earth will be available On Demand and in digital HD, November 15, 2016. To find more information, visit the film's Facebook page, here.

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