Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner has jumped from a balloon 24 miles above Earth in a death-defying free fall that could make him the world’s first supersonic skydiver.
After his parachute deployed he landed safely on the New Mexico desert about 10 minutes later.
He set records for the highest free-fall and the fastest free-fall ever.
Baumgartner climbed into the stratosphere in a pressurized capsule carried by a helium balloon Sunday and then jumped into a near vacuum at about 128,000 feet, or more than 24 miles, high.
Coincidentally, Baumgartner’s attempted feat also marked the 65th anniversary of U.S. test pilot Chuck Yeager successful attempt to become the first man to officially break the sound barrier aboard an airplane.
At Baumgartner’s insistence, some 30 cameras recorded the event. While it had been pegged as a live broadcast, it was actually under a 20-second delay.
Shortly after launch, screens at mission control showed the capsule as it rose above 10,000 feet, high above the New Mexico desert as cheers erupted from organizers. Baumgartner could be seen on video checking instruments inside the capsule.
Baumgartner’s team included Joe Kittinger, the man who first attempted to break the sound barrier from 19.5 miles in 1960. With Kittinger inside mission control Sunday, the two men could be heard going over technical details as the launch began.
“You are right on the button, keep it right there,” Kittinger told Baumgartner.
Earlier in the day, mission control officials declared a “weather hold,” delaying the launch. But about an hour later, organizers described conditions at the launch site as perfect. The jump was postponed twice last week because of high winds.
This attempt also will be the end of a five-year road for Baumgartner, a record-setting high-altitude jumper. He already made two preparation jumps in the area, one in March from 15 miles high and one in July from 18 miles high. It will also be the end of his extreme altitude jumping career; he has promised this will be his final jump.
Dr. Jonathan Clark, Baumgartner’s medical director, has told reporters he expects the pressurized spacesuit to protect him from the shock waves of breaking the sound barrier. If all goes well and he survives the jump, NASA could certify a new generation of spacesuits for protecting astronauts and provide an escape option from spacecraft at 120,000 feet, he said.
Winds had to be under 2 mph for Baumgartner to start his ascent to the stratosphere from this desert town better known as the site of a rumored UFO landing in 1947.
Jumping from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners, Baumgartner’s expects to hit a speed of 690 mph or more before he activates his parachute at 9,500 feet above sea level, or about 5,000 feet above the ground in southeastern New Mexico. The total jump should take about 10 minutes.
The energy drink maker Red Bull, which is sponsoring the feat, has been promoting a live Internet stream of the event from nearly 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and a helicopter. But organizers said there will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.
After the jump, Baumgartner says he plans to settle down with his partner and fly helicopters on mountain rescue and firefighting missions in the U.S. and Austria.
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