Museum of Science and Industry


Who else held their breath as they watched Felix Baumgartner break the speed of sound on his recent epic skydive? We sure did! As my teammates and I watched his supersonic descent, my mind started to wander – what will happen to his giant balloon?

This is one incredible balloon. Weighing more than 3,700 pounds and thinner than a sandwich bag, it is able to hold almost 30 million cubic feet at its plumpest! Felix’s capsule parachuted down behind him for potential reuse, and the helium inside the balloon naturally (and some would say unfortunately) floated away once released.

But what happened to the 40 acres of plastic balloon skin? Released balloons can create a dangerous environmental hazard for many animals, and this one was 55 stories tall! No need for worry: the Red Bull Stratos crew had it covered. The balloon was deflated using a "destruct line," allowed to fall back down to Earth, and gathered up into a big truck to be removed.

This is pretty interesting stuff to learn about – you might say it’s almost "out of this world"!

Image: Red Bull Stratos

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Museum of Science+Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
1 (773) 684-1414
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  • 80 at 80

    See 80 rarely displayed artifacts in an exhibit commemorating the Museum's 80th anniversary.

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