Felix Baumgartner Leaps From 128,100ft: Breaks Record For Highest Ever Skydive With Red Bull Stratos (PICTURES, VIDEO)

One Giant Leap

He's not called 'Fearless Felix' for nothing.

On Sunday evening Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner was towed by a giant helium balloon to over 128,000 feet (24 miles) above Roswell, New Mexico.

Then, with the words "I'm going home", he leapt out... into the record books.

Felix ascended to a breath-taking height - then leapt out safely to the ground

It was a height several times higher than that reached by civilian airlines. So high that there's barely an atmosphere present.

Within 40 seconds of exiting his capsule he hit 833mph, mach 1.24, becoming the first person to break the sound barrier in freefall. But he also went into a wild, uncontrolled spin.

For several heart-stopping moments, as he span, he stopped talking... Perhaps something had gone dreadfully wrong.

Felix looks down and contemplates a rather faster journey back to Earth

Then the images beamed through YouTube showed that Baumgartner had brought his descent under control and he could be heard explaining that his visor had fogged up.

There were huge cheers from watching family, friends and the mission control crew.

In a matter of minutes - in fact after four minutes 20 seconds - he'd deployed his parachute and floated safely back to Earth, with a rescue crew quickly on the scene.

His leap broke the previous skydiving record set by US military pilot Joe Kittinger on 16 August 1960.

He leapt from a helium-filled balloon from 19 miles up and reached 600mph on the way down.

And he's off... moments later Baumgartner broke the sound barrier

In a press conference afterwards Baumgartner explained that there was no sensation of breaking the sound barrier because there was barely any atmosphere.

He said: "I didn’t feel it at all. I didn’t know how fast I was travelling. I had no reference points. Normally your suit is flapping.”

Moments before the jump, Baumgartner's words were largely inaudible, but he clarified that he'd said: "I wish the world could see what I could see, sometimes you have to go really high to see how small you are."

Asked about the spin he went into, he said: "It started really good, my exit was perfect, then that spin became so violent it was hard to know how to get out of it, but I was trapped in the pressurised suit and I could not feel the air, I was fighting all the way down.”

He added: "I couldn’t have done it without my team. The only thing is you want to come back alive. That became the most important thing to me when I stood out there [moments before jumping].”

The jump marks the culmination of five years of planning, with the daredevil deploying state-of-the-art technology to ensure his safety.

Safely back on Earth: Baumgartner shows his relief at touching down

The risks involved were enormous. He could have haemorrhaged his eyes or got a blood clot on his brain – or his blood might have “boiled” if his suit had ripped.

Baumgartner, 43, could also have broken his neck.

His suit, though, was space-age, with a parachute that would open automatically if he was rendered unconscious.

It also had a pressure-control system, heated sun visor, GPS, orientation sensor, altimeter and even mirrors so he could check his parachutes had deployed.

The staff at mission control show their delight as Baumgartner makes it safely to Earth

Before the jump Baumgartner said: “The reason I believe we’re going to be successful is because we’ve put together an incredible team of experts and we have gone about this in a very carefully planned, scientific way. I didn’t want to go from zero to hero - instead we’ve done lots of tests to progress gradually, step-by-step, toward the final goal. Each test has taught us something.”

“Every test - from wearing the suit in a wind tunnel, to simulations in an altitude chamber, to jumping from airplanes, and then jumping from a balloon in the stratosphere - has been more difficult, and the success of each one has raised our motivation even higher.”


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