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 740.

    That must have taken some nerve, to finally step off into the unknown, looking down at the Earth, he must have considered his own mortality but to do it anyway and at the grand old age of paraphase....I think you are out of your mind but I like your style :-)...well done that man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    Is Richard Branson already thinking of breaking this record?

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    # 726 I think you and some others are missing the point. I'm not against exploration or taking risks. I'm against it when it is simply an ego trip for no real scientific or human benefit. I love #721's comment about the British sitting at home moaning - if he (or she) had any grasp of history I think he (or she) would realise how absurd that comment is. I hope you are not Swiss as I would faint!

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.


  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    I was waiting for him to start slapping his pockets half way down whilst asking 'now where did I put those keys...' anyway well done to him, must have taken loads of courage to do that fall but I'll wait until I see any scientific improvements that come from it before I consider it no more than a stunt. Does anyone know what happened to the ballon?

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    @732 Not sure about the balloon, but the capsule came down (as planned) shortly after - to be reused apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    Let's see what you have 'waisted' your money on. Shouldn't you be busy raising money, seeling all your 'gear' for medical research rather than commenting on a thread you have absolutely no interest with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    I watched this LIVE on the internet. I could have seen him die. This WASN'T a foregone conclusion. To the doubters saying it was a waste of money, then lets stop all sport & making films & give players & actors £m wages to charity; to the doubters, dont go on holiday, or to the pub, give your money away instead. Lets all live in caves & support the poor & needy! Well done Felix, I am proud of you

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    err, what happens to the balloon and it's attached capsule?

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    To all the miserable nay-sayers.... what good is a cure for cancer or an end to World poverty if mankind lives a feeble and 'lifeless' existence in its place?

    Vast global research is trying try to cure mans never-ending ailments... In the meantime Felix and the RedBull team have advanced science & engineering through pushing humankind to an acheivement of outstanding beauty. Stunning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    @ 658. MarkM

    If it wasn't for people like Feliz, we'd still be hunter-gatherings living in caves and growling.
    Science of this nature is how humanity becomes more than a collection of bones and tissue.
    I'm glad it's not in your hands, frankly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    I don't think it was a waste of money, nor do i think he is a nutter - i think he is a brave, determined man. However, please bear in mind after he stepped off the platform his efforts were over; he had to break the record no matter what he did after that moment. Valuable scienfic data about falling? Falling is already well researched and predictable; some people do it for weeks in orbit

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    It makes me laugh at these haters that think he hasn't acheived anything. It could well be the same haters who go and watch footballers cheat and get paid far far more as a team than this entire science experiment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    It is a myth that this will help science or any research. All it was was a man who's ego got the better of him and where a drinks company was able to pay through the nose to fund the stunt. The possibility of any human exiting a spacecraft which is orbiting the earth and then just dropping to the surface is propaganda. Real science is not being carried out at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    MarkM, Would you have said Christopher Columbus's expeditions across the Atlantic a waste of money? Or the mission to the Moon. It is people like Felix Baumgartner who expand the human race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    @710. An Over Populated Planet

    At the risk of digressing, I'd like to point something out:

    The world is not over-populated, it is mismanaged. The people who mismanage it however are not the people who undertake endeavours such as this, the people who mismanage the world are single-minded self absorbed individuals, much like the people who pointlessly complain when somebody achieves a great feat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    Taking nothing from Felix - amazing.
    But spare a thought for Joe Kittinger, who did nearly the same thing from 102,000 feet, and freefell for Nineteen Sixty!!!! 1960. No computers, less technology 50 years ago. If Felix was great (he was!) how great was Joe, who aged 84 watched it from the control room. Hats off to both.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    The people on here saying the money would have been better off going to charity and good causes should lighten up. There are always going to be problems in the world, should we never spend money on good things that bring a smile to millions of people, or helping in scientific causes? This guy is amazing and has nerves of steel to do this. He followed his dream, shouldnt more of us try that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    I have forgotten how many times I have read and seen this sort of thing in computer games and movies. It is just awesome.

    It's probable that the most notable thing it will be used for is rapid insertion of troops to hot spots but if we ever find a cheap way to leave the earths gravity well I could see this becoming a popular sport.

    Space elevator anyone? :D

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    Ah, "what a waste of money." The British answer to everything. Anything except sitting at home with a cup of tea moaning at the telly is a "waste of money." These people are a waste of time!


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