Several months ago, we reported on Felix Baumgartner, an extreme daredevil who planned to break several world records by free falling to earth from the edge of space. Well, yesterday Baumgartner executed his stunt and successfully set new records for the world’s highest skydive, highest manned balloon flight, fastest freefall, and the first person to break the sound barrier outside of a jet or spacecraft.
Baumgartner, 43, took the leap out of the space capsule while 128,100 feet (24.26 miles) above Roswell, New Mexico. Almost immediately after jumping he went into a tail spin, which could have threatened his ability to break the sound barrier if he couldn’t regain control and streamline his fall. Fortunately, although Baumgartner felt “a lot of pressure” in his head, he maintained enough composure to quickly stabilize his descent, which resulted in an eruption of cheers from mission control.
FAI certifier, Brian Utley, announced that Baumgartner reached a top speed of 833.9 mph roughly one minute into his fall (effectively breaking the sound barrier).
After landing Baumgartner said, “I didn’t feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
Helping Baumgartner achieve his success was none other than the former skydiving record holder, U.S. Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger who jumped from 102,800 feet in 1960. Kittinger served as an advisor on the mission and was Baumgartner’s capsule communicator during the monumental skydive.
The one record the Australian thrill-seeker wasn’t able to beat was the time for the longest free fall. Although Baumgartner hoped to earn the title, he launched his parachute earlier than planned after spending 4 minutes and 20 seconds in freefall. During the fall Baumgartner complained about his visor fogging up, which is likely the reason he missed the parachute timing. But, considering Baumgartner risked boiling his blood, running out of oxygen, ripping his protective suit, and a number of other unpredictable outcomes, some fog in the visor was comparatively no big deal.
In the end, a feat that was seven years in the making lasted only about nine minutes. After landing on his feet, Baumgartner raised his arms in victory as onlookers applauded excitedly.
Later he said, “When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore, you do not think about gaining scientific data. The only thing you want is to come back alive.”
When asked what he plans to do next, Baumgartner replied, “Well, in forty years I’d like to be in the seat Joe Kittinger is in today; helping somebody to try to break my record.”