Skydiver Felix Baumgartner breaks sound barrier


Highlights from Felix Baumgartner's leap into the record books

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Austrian Felix Baumgartner has become the first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound, reaching a maximum velocity of 833.9mph (1,342km/h).

In jumping out of a balloon 128,100ft (24 miles; 39km) above New Mexico, the 43-year-old also smashed the record for the highest ever freefall.

He said he almost aborted the dive because his helmet visor fogged up.

Footage from a camera on Baumgartner's chest shows out-of-control spin

It took just under 10 minutes for him to descend. Only the last few thousand feet were negotiated by parachute.

Once down, he fell to his knees and raised his fists in triumph. Helicopter recovery teams were on hand moments later.

"Let me tell you - when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble. You don't think about breaking records anymore, you don't think about gaining scientific data - the only thing that you want is to come back alive," he said afterwards at a media conference.

None of the new marks set by Baumgartner can be classed as "official" until endorsed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI).

The jump in numbers

  • Exit altitude: 128,100ft; 39,045m
  • Total jump duration: 9'03"
  • Freefall time: 4'20"
  • Freefall distance 119,846ft; 36,529m
  • Max velocity: 833.9mph; 1,342.8km/h; Mach 1.24

Its representative was the first to greet the skydiver on the ground. GPS data recorded on to a microcard in the Austrian's chest pack will form the basis for the height and speed claims that are made.

These will be submitted formally through the Aerosport Club of Austria for certification.

There was concern early in the dive that Baumgartner was in trouble. He was supposed to get himself into a delta position - head down, arms swept back - as soon as possible after leaving his capsule. But the video showed him tumbling over and over.


Eventually, however, he was able to use his great experience, from more than 2,500 career dives, to correct his fall and get into a stable configuration.

Even before this drama, it was thought the mission might have to be called off. As he went through last-minute checks inside the capsule, it was found that a heater for his visor was not working. This meant the visor fogged up as he exhaled.

"This is very serious, Joe," he told retired US Air Force Col Joe Kittinger, whose records he was attempting to break, and who was acting as his radio link in mission control at Roswell airport.

The team took a calculated risk to proceed after understanding why the problem existed.

Baumgartner's efforts have finally toppled records that have stood for more than 50 years.

Kittinger set his marks for the highest, farthest, and longest freefall when he leapt from a helium envelope in 1960. His altitude was 102,800ft (31km). (His record for the longest freefall remains intact - he fell for more than four and a half minutes before deploying his chute; Baumgartner was in freefall for four minutes and 20 seconds).

Kittinger, now an octogenarian, has been an integral part of Baumgartner's team, and has provided the Austrian with advice and encouragement whenever the younger man has doubted his ability to complete such a daring venture.

"Felix did a great job and it was a great honour to work with this brave guy," the elder man said.

The 43-year-old adventurer - best known for leaping off skyscrapers - first discussed seriously the possibility of beating Kittinger's records in 2005.

Since then, he has had to battle technical and budgetary challenges to make it happen.

What he was proposing was extremely dangerous, even for a man used to those skyscraper stunts.

On a parachute The Austrian first began to discuss seriously the idea of a record breaking jump in 2005

At Sunday's jump altitude, the air pressure is less than 2% of what it is at sea level, and it is impossible to breathe without an oxygen supply.

Others who have tried to break the records have lost their lives in the process.

Baumgartner's team built him a special pressurised capsule to protect him on the way up, and for his descent he wore a next generation, full pressure suit made by the same company that prepares the flight suits of astronauts.

Although the jump had the appearance of another Baumgartner stunt, his team stressed its high scientific relevance.

The researchers on the Red Bull Stratos project say it has already provided invaluable data for the development of high-performance, high-altitude parachute systems, and that the lessons learned will inform the development of new ideas for emergency evacuation from vehicles, such as spacecraft, passing through the stratosphere.

Nasa and its spacecraft manufacturers have asked to be kept informed.

Press conference Kittinger (L) was the only person Baumgartner wanted to hear on the radio during the mission

"Part of this programme was to show high-altitude egress, passing through Mach and a successful re-entry back [to subsonic speed], because our belief scientifically is that's going to benefit future private space programmes or high-altitude pilots; and Felix proved that today," said Art Thompson, the team principal.

In getting to 128,100ft (above sea level; Roswell elevation 3,670ft/1,120m), Baumgartner exceeded the altitude for the highest ever manned balloon flight achieved by Victor Prather and Malcolm Ross, who ascended to 113,720ft (35km) in 1961.

However, the FAI rules, state that to claim an official ballooning record, a balloonist must also bring the envelope down and therefore the Austrian's altitude will forever remain just an unofficial mark.

A BBC/National Geographic documentary is being made about the project. This will probably air first in the UK and in the US in November, and in other territories sometime soon after.

Lift off The giant helium balloon carrying Baumgartner's capsule was released early morning local time in Roswell
Felix Baumgartner's suit and capsule 1 2 3 4 7 6 5 8 9 10 11 12

Heated sun visor

Oxygen supply hose

Main parachute handle

HD camera on each leg

Suit made of layered material

Mirror to check parachute

Altitude gauge

High altitude balloon: expands with altitude

Balloon made of plastic film 0.002cm thick

Frame attaches capsule to balloon

Sliding door to exit capsule

Foam insulated shell


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  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    This guy has got a pair. That's for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Surprised he wasnt approached by the Bond film producers. They missed a a trick there....

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    What a ledge

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    701# : so you think that saving somebody's life via a heart transplant is stupid? Which implies you think that the years of training and dedication a heart transplant surgeon and his team put in are a waste of time and money. Better spent on falling from space eh? Of all the counter arguments you could have come up with that has got to be the worst one possible! Your stupidity exceeds Felix's!

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    Plenty of skydivers who could have done that. He was only lucky it was him who got someone to sponsor for publicity for their company

    Those thinking this is some great tech and scientific feat, it isn't. Technology to do that jump has been around for over 50 years. This jump isn't going to add to any significant science knowledge. If that were the case NASA would have done it again long ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    Instead of wasting money on this stunt they could have paid for psychiatric treatment for the for all those cynics who think is was a waste of time and money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    On the face of it I think this guy (and his team) are pretty amazing.

    Brave ,brave man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    This had to be the most frightening and yet most exciting thing I have seen on TV in god knows how many years. I watched the whole thing from 40K feet onwards, and the anticipation was just immense.
    When he opened the door I felt dizzy. When he stood on the step I felt weak-kneed with vertigo... and the moment he stepped off? I nearly wet myself.
    The Man Who Fell to Earth lives!

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    Wow! I was watching avidly on the YouTube channel and loved every minute of it too. An unbelievable amount of human bravery and endeavour was required and Felix you had it in spades. Congratulations and I very much doubt this record will ever be broken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    Bill Hawkes

    And how much have you given to 'health research'? Zilch I suspect. Suggest you go back to your cave.

  • Comment number 710.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    This was privately funded. He has the right to do that jump purely for fun if he wants to. Most of the world's wealthy spend money on trivial pursuits that contribute absolutely nothing to human understanding, and yet people choose to complain about a guy who takes a daring risk and produces valuable scientific data in the process? What the actual...!? Some people are far too closed-minded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    I always watch the Joe Kittinger footage in amazement and this is just as good. In a world where everything is so safe, where you can't do this or that, this guy went to the edge.

    To all that say that it's a waste of money or stupid etc I'd suggest that you shouldn't have watched it, perhaps even the BBC website might be a little too exciting for your grey little existence, I pity you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Utter money waste to show off in space!

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    If it was me, I would scream "wheeeeeeee!" all the way down!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.


    Hey up man, with people like you, I am surprised we got out of the stone age.

    Not your life and not you money, so they can spend it on whatever they want and believe it or not there is life beyond the couch!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    We will gain a great deal of science out of this. Data has been collected for the design of safer space suits as well as safety gear for other High Altitude flyers. Well done, money well spent. Without this sort of activity, we would still be sending our fire fighters in without appropriate gear, for instance. Many medical breakthroughs have started with scientific investigations at this level

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    This has got to be one of the most amazing individual achievements in a very long time, and what a wealth of new knowledge. To the cynics, no achievement is wasted or a waste of money if the sum of human knowledge and experience is enhanced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    Like Kittinger, this was a really impressive and heroic act. And contrast what they did with the so-called "Olympic heroes" that were so feted in the UK just a few weeks ago and you can plainly see how much hype and outright falsehoods there was with regard to the Olympics. Some say this was a pointless stunt, but is running and jumping etc in the Olympics on any actual use?

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    "...why is it brave to needlessly put your own life at risk for no real purpose. That isn't bravery - it's stupidity.
    Let me provide you with an equivalent act of stupidity: "What, you want to take the heart out of a deceased person & replace the heart of a seriosuly sick person, that isn't bravery - it's stupidity!"

    ...Well Mark, all I can say is thank god for stupidity!


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