After five years of preparation and training with Red Bull Stratos team, Austrian skydiving expert Felix Baumgartner finally accomplished his mission. On Sunday, October 14, he jumped from an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon to become the first human being who broke the speed of sound in freefall.
The record was set exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. Baumgartner reached an estimated maximum speed of 1,342.8 km/h. The 43-year-old Austrian also became the first man to jump from the edge of space in a 4:20 minute long freefall and the first to do it using a balloon.
Baumgartner had some problems with the power for his visor heater and experienced weather-related delays but landed safely with his parachute in the desert of New Mexico. The mission’s goal was to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.
The jump was broadcasted live on television channels and on the internet watched by millions of people. The Red Bull Stratos crew was watching the jump from Mission Control.
In July 2012, Baumgartner performed a highest-altitude near-record jump from the edge of space (97,145.7 feet / 29,610 meters) to break 52-year old record of the longest freefall, however his ascent capsule suffered a hard landing on rough terrain.
«It was an incredible up and down today, just like it’s been with the whole project,» a relieved Baumgartner said. «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 stabilize 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.»