Los Angeles - Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner became the first
man to break the sound barrier in a record-shattering freefall jump from
the edge of space on Sunday, organisers said.
leapt from a capsule more than 39km above the Earth, reaching a speed of
1 380km/h or Mach 1.24 before opening his red and white parachute and
floating down to the New Mexico desert.
Mission control erupted in
cheers as Baumgartner made a near-perfect jump from the capsule hoisted
aloft by a giant helium-filled balloon to an altitude of 39 044m, even
higher than expected.
"I think 20 tons have fallen from my
shoulders. I prepared for this for seven years," Baumgartner told
German-language ServusTV in Austria, in his first interview after the
Referring to a helmet problem that nearly forced him to
abort at the last minute, Baumgartner said: "Even on a day like this
when you start so well, then there's a little glitch.
think you'll have to abort - what if you've prepared everything and it
fails on a visor problem. But I finally decided to jump. And it was the
Shortly before jumping, in footage beamed live
around the world - on a crackly radio link recalling Neil Armstrong's
first words on the Moon - he had said: "Sometimes you have [go] up
really high to [realise] how small you are."
The Austrian took
more than two hours to get up to the jump altitude. Baumgartner had
already broken one record, before he even leapt: the previous highest
altitude for a manned balloon flight was 34 442m, set in 1961.
Baumgartner had been due to jump from 36 576m, but the balloon went higher than expected, to more than 39km.
One of the first people to congratulate him was Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
warmly congratulate Felix Baumgartner on this great success, which was
achieved with courage and perseverance and is finding worldwide
attention. Austria is proud of your accomplishment," he wrote on his
The Red Bull Stratos mission was the second attempt
for the skydiver after an initial bid on Tuesday was aborted at the
last minute due to winds.
The biggest risk Baumgartner faced was
spinning out of control, which could have exerted g-force and made him
lose consciousness. A controlled dive from the capsule was essential,
putting him in a head-down position to increase speed.
gruesomely, the skydiver's blood could have boiled if there were the
slightest tear or crack in his pressurized spacesuit-like outfit, due to
instant depressurization at the extreme altitude.
Temperatures of -68°C could also have had unpredictable consequences if his suit somehow failed.
leap went off flawlessly, though there was a minor problem as the
capsule ascended: a heater failed on Baumgartner's helmet faceplate,
meaning it was becoming fogged up when he exhaled.
After considering the options, Baumgartner and his entourage decided to go ahead with the jump.
100-strong backup team includes retired US Air Force colonel Joe
Kittinger, who had held one of the records the Austrian was trying to
break: the highest freefall jump, which Kittinger made from 31 333m in
"Let the guardian angel take care of you," Kittinger told Baumgartner shortly before he leapt into the void.
giant balloon - which holds 859 000m³ of helium - is needed to carry
the Red Bull Stratos capsule of nearly 1.3 tons to the stratosphere.
is made of near transparent polyethylene strips even thinner than a dry
cleaner bag, which are heat-sealed together. Very thin material is
necessary to save weight.
The skydiver has been training for five
years for the jump. He holds several previous records, notably with
spectacular BASE jumps from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the
Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Speaking before the launch, Baumgartner said he would be proud to be the first person to break the speed of sound in freefall.
really, I know that part of this entire experience will help make the
next pressure suit safer for space tourists and aviators," the jumper
His launch coincided with the 65th anniversary of American pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the speed of sound.
Watch the video below: