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 880.

    the 'lowest rated' comments on this page make me despair

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    It's interesting to me to see the negative comments. As an engineer it further confirms to me that people just don't appreciate anything that pushes our engineering technology. Ok it does not bring world peace, but every improvement helps. Given the money waisted on football in the UK, I'd say this has little to criticise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    I have always fancied Base Jumping or that flying squirrel suit flying thing.But what this man has just explored is mind boggling...Your a braver man than me...WHOOSH.

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    "I really do fail to see how that will advance anything"

    Really? Guess you're one of these people who think space travel is a waste of money too? Wouldn't have got so much technology without it though. Pushing the boundaries gives us new technology *constantly*, and this jump is no different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    Hey miserable people, you lot need to get a grip. He wasn't trying to cure cancer or AIDS. He's a skydiver who wanted to carry out the highest jump. Loads of people were interested and wanted to watch, a bit like watching sport or a film. Good job many of you weren't around thousands of years ago, you would've whinged the species into extinction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    As i see it the only achievement was landing alive.

    Anybody could have made the jump and naturally would have broken the sound barrier.

    like all flights, it is the way you hit the ground that determines success or failure

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    Those who think this has no value is the same people who said that breaking sound barrier on a plane is of no value. It prove that it CAN be done. Once we know something can be done, the next step is to make it better. This is a vital step to space. Drop Pods from Stations, Emergency Bailout from Planes, etc. Only time will tell how valuable this endeavor will be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    i really loved how it was recognized, everthing was in place. He was brave, he wasn't feeling scared and i really loved it when he did the peace sign after he landed on the land.
    He broke 3 records, one was left for him, but he was a hero.
    i love him !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    Felix and the team - a gallant tremendous effort and indeed success! Well done!
    The negativity of some of the comments is indicative of peoples small thinking ... if it were not for people like you guys then we would still be in the dark ages!! so thank you to you pioneers! it took an awesome amount of planning and knowledge and yet still lots will have been learned and gained, WELL DONE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    Have we lost all sense of adventure in the UK? This is true adventure on a grand scale. This is the spirit the UK needs to get us out of the mess we are in. It would be great to see someone from Britain doing something adventurous. maybe Australia is part of the future. Mediocre britain certainly isn't!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.


    If we threw you out, you would have died. The fact is it took a lot of organisation, and an extremely brave man, to achieve what was achieved. Sure, there was a lot of high-tech, but no machine, as in no engine. THAT is most certainly impressive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    Psychologically, inspiring someone to live in and achieve in spite of the pressures gives lot of difference in gaining a winning edge to their goals.
    From a optimist point, I think this particular stratos have inspired millions not to give-up in striking their goals.
    I appreciate their dedication and efforts for past 4 years into this project and a special kudos to Felix......

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    This comment was posted immediately, but my comment on the Jimmy Savile BBC saga has to be referred to the BBC Stazi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    I dont know why the people with all the negative comments even bothered watching if they thought it such a non-event and i bet they are the type of people who wouldnt jump off a kerb let alone out of a plane or ballon. Its alway non-achievers who poke scorn at the achievements of others

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    @ Tommy:

    What do you mean "another waste of funds"? Who's funds? No-one's. They raised money themselves to do something that no-one had done before, and pulled off an amazing stunt.

    Or do you believe that everything that does not in fact cure a disease is not note-worthy?

    Jeez, some people are just SO negative...

  • rate this

    Comment number 865.


  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    Brickbats to the narrow-minded boneheads who can only babble banalities from the sidelines about what a waste of money and so on. These are folks who don't understand the sublimity of reaching for the stars. Too bad for them! But the rest of us DO GET IT! Kudos to Felix for pulling off this Giant Leap for Humankind . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 863.

    It would not have been much of a sound barrier at those high altitudes. The lower the atmospheric pressure the lower the speed of sound and the less 'bang'.
    I suspect the comparison with a jet aircraft going through the sound barrier and creating an almighty bang is rather misleading. Perhaps an expert can enlighten us...

  • rate this

    Comment number 862.

    Another waste of funds. I personally would love to jump out of a balloon if it means a cure for a deadly disease or to raise money for a charity. What this did was boost an ego and cost more than 4m, which was raised by advertising. This guy is no hero. A nurse, now that's a hero.

  • rate this

    Comment number 861.

    Well then TBL didn't 'invent' the WWW. It was down to the guys who invented the abacus. FW didn't invent the jet engine. That was down to the guys in the bronze age. You're just getting desperate now. DNA - C&W no arguement. Case closed.


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