Red Bull Stratos: mission accomplished for 24 mile jump [+video]
Austria's Felix Baumgartner earned his place in the history books on Sunday when he broke the speed of sound in a free-fall jump from the edge of space.
On Sunday, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane, Felix Baumgartner completed a record breaking jump from the outer reaches of Earth's atmosphere.
Baumgartner flew to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon before leaving the capsule on the edge of space and plummeting to earth.
The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert broke three world records (fastest freefall, highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), landing safely in the desert of New Mexico. Baumgartner missed out on the record for the longest freefall by seconds, leaving project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger as the holder.
During his 4:20 minute long freefall, Baumgartner hit a top speed of 1,342.8 km/h (Mach 1.24) before being slowed by the atmosphere. Millions of people around the world watched his ascent and jump live on television broadcasts and live stream on the Internet, with nearly 7.3 million viewers on YouTube alone.
"It was an incredible up and down today, just like it's been with the whole project," a relieved Baumgartner said after his landing.
"First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I'd just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I'd lose consciousness. I didn't feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilise myself. We'll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be."
Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission that is designed to improve our understanding of how the body deals with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.
Baumgartner had endured several days of delay, caused by blustery weather conditions, before finally lifting off under bright blue skies and calm winds on Sunday morning.