When Eddie Braun was a little boy, he got a chance to meet his idol, Evel Knievel. The famed daredevil took the young man aside and gave him some encouragement. A short time later, Braun hopped on his Schwinn bike and broke his arm trying to jump over some garbage cans.
His latest attempt to honor Knievel went a lot better. On Saturday, Braun, 54, climbed into the cockpit of a rocket-powered shuttle and made the jump Knievel himself couldn’t: over the 1600-foot expanse of Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Knievel had attempted to clear the terrain back in September 1974, but his parachute deployed while still over the canyon, causing him to fall 500 feet to the rocks below. Numerous people have come forward with plans to replicate the stunt, but the red tape involved—FAA clearance, liability issues, and city ordinances—kept everyone on the ground. A determined Braun spent three years and nearly $1.5 million of his own money to see the project through.
Calling the workmanship involved a "bunch of technical crap," Braun boiled it down for GQ.com. "At the end of the day, my right hand will be on a switch," he said. "I hit that switch, and if everything goes right, I’m going to go 0 to 430 mph in less than 3.9 seconds. And as I’m praying inwardly, I will hit a series of other levers and such, which will deploy the parachutes at the right time, which will slow me down, and bring me to a controlled crash."
With no precedent to observe, Braun told his documentary filmmaking partners to finish production on a forthcoming feature even if he didn't make it, so long as they would "cover my puddle with something dignified."
In front of family and a few actual rocket scientists, Braun loaded himself into the rocket and took off, steam pressure from superheated water blasting him 2000 feet into the sky like something out of a Warner Bros. cartoon. After clearing the Canyon, his craft deployed two parachutes and came to a gentle landing 4729 feet away.
Braun, who now plans to retire from stunt work, was unharmed. That keeps his current worst-injury statistic at a broken back and collapsed pelvis from a car jump for an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.