Felix Baumgartner made skydiving history Thursday by jumping from 71,580 feet — or more than 13 miles above earth — and setting a world free-fall speed record of 364.4 mph.
Remarkably, with his leap while wearing a space suit from the stratosphere, the Austrian daredevil did not set an altitude record.
He became the third person to jump from the same altitude and survive. The others were Russia’s Eugene Andreev and American Joseph Kittinger, who accomplished their feats in the 1960s.
But this was only a practice jump for Baumgartner, who is working toward the ultimate goal, as part of the Red Bull Stratos project, of skydiving from 23 miles above earth and breaking the sound barrier.
Thursday’s jump occurred over Roswell, New Mexico, from a space capsule lifted into the sky by a helium balloon. Baumgartner’s suit was designed to guard against harsh atmospheric conditions above and below the so-called Armstrong Line — the point at which bodily fluids would vaporize without protection.
At one point during the 3-minute, 43-second free-fall, the daredevil plummeted through temperatures as cold as minus-75 degrees.
Despite his customized space suit, Baumgartner said he was so cold he could hardly move his hands, and that the free-fall was so long that he had to fight the urge to deploy the parachute too early.
“I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while, but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of 50,000 feet,” said Baumgartner, whose overall jump lasted just over eight minutes.
The helium balloon was remotely deflated and the capsule, which was detached from the balloon via explosive device, descended under a parachute to the desert floor.
Baumgartner will conduct another test from 90,000 feet before attempting his 23-mile jump later this year.
Of that ultimate goal he said, “I love a challenge, and trying to become the first person to break the speed of sound in a free-fall is a challenge like no other,” he said.
For more on the story behind this amazing record that’s stood for 50 years, see video below.
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