For Megan, Barry and Eric Rich.
What Felix Baumgartner did today in leaping from a balloon from an altitude of 128,000 feet, 24 miles, was truly inspiring, and a landmark for showing something really cool to look forward too, and herefore live to see, almost really as a metaphor for a species too prone to self-destruct at times: balloons in space.
Or maybe balloons and space, if his view was most definitely out of this world, higher than the SR-71 Blackbird used to fly, where you can see the total blackness of space only relieved by bright stars against the blue of Mother Earth.
To see that clearly be possible for the mass of humanity is a bright future in an of itself, which is what Baumgarter opened eyes to today, an accomplishment worthy of the year of losing Neil Armstrong, to show that his spirit is very much alive.
As to why what he did is so important, it points to how balloons as lifting bodies most definitely have a bright future as to getting into space.
Not everyone of course will want to jump like he did, but, they won't have to, since a capsule with lots of windows is a totally proven technology, and at that altitude, wouldn't require a heat shield or radiation protection either, safe for the mass of people, and since helium is cheap, cost effective too.
Moreover, one can lift rockets with balloons, using the balloons as a stepping stone to space, drop the rockets, and then orbital insertion comes at a much lower fuel cost.
Since rocket fuel isn't cheap, again balloons are surely to be part of the future of space, if other technologies will have a place too, Paul Allen's concept of tied 747's dropping rockets, and for supply and construction rail guns as well, ultimately the Space Elevator's contruction being possible because of all of that, in which each will be part of systems of systems.
So, Felix Baumgartner took one not so small leap for a man, and took another real leap for mankind, appropriate enough in a year we lost Neil Armstrong, and yet see that his spirit yet lives too, as to reasons to be optimistic about our ultimate future, and all live to see it.