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 760.

    For the whiners, it takes a lot more bravery to get out there and actually do something like this than it does to sit, safely behind the anonymity of the internet, and make snide comments about how he shouldn't have bothered. The grapes you can't reach aren't always so sour.

  • Comment number 759.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    If this stunt had any scientific purpose then why has it taken 50 years to repeat it all over again? Theres exploration & benefit to science & then there is nothing but glorified ego-centric showmanship, merely aimed at beating world records. Equating Baumgartner with the likes of Edmunson, Scott & others, its a total insult to them & frankly anyone who sees through this distraction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    What scientific gain can be made from this? Nothing that I can see; what a waste of money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.


    You sound like a cheery soul...!

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    Can't believe these negative comments.
    Where would we be if no-one had plunged the depths of the ocean, broken the land speed record, swam the channel, rowed across the Atlantic...
    Who cares if it was a stunt... what it's done is show that an escape system can be developed for baling out of spacecraft in an emergency either leaving or returning to Earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    I'm saddened by many of the negative or distracting comments on here. It just proves how small minded and petty many people are. There are very few 'extreme challenges' left for humans to take on and this was one of them. Felix Baumgartner may be a showman, but he has tremendous bravery and the world needs a few of these types to thrill and inspire the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    @745. An Over Populated Planet

    Simply watching a video doesn't make you an expert on anything, and simply stating that somebody is wrong does not make you right.

    There are plenty of resources, on this planet and elsewhere, but those resources are poorly distributed and poorly used. The human race has the ability to produce all that we need, but there is no global coordination of how we produce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    748.Archimedes Screwed.

    So we'll see you next at an altitude of 40km next time shall we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    One giant step for (a) man?

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    732. Lionel Mandrake
    err, what happens to the balloon and it's attached capsule?

    Don't worry, gravity will have that covered!

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    To MarkM & other doubters:

    What Felix Baumgartner did was to perform a feat of human endurance that was provided by private funding. Just like Edmund Hillary climbing to the top of Mount Everest and Scott's endeavours in the Antarctic, if fantastic people like this did not take endurance to the the limits we would all be worse off as a race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    I'm the greatest fan of Spaceflight and human exploration. Neil Armstrong was a hero of mine. However, as for the escapades of the 'man who fell to Earth'; Baumgartner, then sadly he is nothing but a showman. His passive plunge was never a sincere or long term science project, reflected in the sponsorship of a fizzy drinks company. Bungee jumpers take far more risk, as they have no parachute!

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Thank god for Felix and his ilk - without them mankind would have little to be in awe of. We'd all still be living in sub-Saharan Africa, wondering what was over the ridge. Even if there's nothing else to be learned, there is the fact of living for it's own sake. Frankly, if you can't see the need for that, then maybe you're the ones who are 'overpopulating the planet'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    717. MarkM
    701# : so you think that saving somebody's life via a heart transplant is stupid?". "Your stupidity exceeds Felix's!"

    A classic case of the words leaving your mouth before the thought reaches your brain. You should try to read 701's comment again or have a grown up explain it for you. I pity the HSY moderators, for having to read some of the most idiotic statements known to man.

  • Comment number 745.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    "Fantastic achievement, but I fail to see WHY!"

    Why on earth not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    Waste of money?

    Red Bull pay other companies or their own employees. These companies pay either other companies or their employees. The companies and/or employees can choose to spend their money on good causes if they so wish.

    The money does not go into a black hole. Money circulates.

    A fantastic achievement.

    Money well circulated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    "could have seen him die. This WASN'T a foregone conclusion."

    He could have died, yes, but after he stepped off the platform, he couldn't have failed to break the record

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    The vastness of space. And below Felix's feet, our unique blue planet.
    Let's make sure we look after it.


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