He went from man to speeding bullet in a matter of seconds. Human rocket Felix Baumgartner wowed the world on Sunday night by breaking the sound barrier in nothing more than a spacesuit — leaping from 128,000 feet (24 miles) above the Earth and calmly walking away unaided after landing in a field in Roswell, NM.
“When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore,” the 43-year-old Austrian daredevil said afterward. “The only thing you want is to come back alive.”
The jump — during which “Fearless Felix” hit a top speed of 1,342 kmph, well above the speed of sound.With yesterday’s jump, Baumgartner, a former paratrooper, broke several records: fastest descent by a man outside a craft, highest free fall and the highest manned balloon trip.
The only record he fell short of breaking was longest free fall in terms of time. Baumgartner fell for 4 minutes, 22 seconds before activating his parachute, just shy of the 4:36 mark set in 1960 by retired Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, now 84.
Before the leap, Baumgartner was lifted to the heavens in a capsule in a three-hour helium balloon ride. There was an early question over whether his face shield fit properly. In the first minutes of the jump, he spun like a top before straightening out.
Any foul-ups with his suit amid the minus-70 degree temperatures would have surely led to a grisly death. His feat was seen by a YouTube record of 7.3 million simultaneous viewers and broadcast live on 40 TV stations in 50 nations.
No stranger to danger
>> One of Felix’s first records was in 1999 for the lowest base jump ever from the hand of Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, which is 95 feet above the ground.
w In 2003, he completed the first winged ‘freefall crossing’ of the English Channel, leaping out of an aircraft and flying the with carbon wings.
2 skydivers, 52 years apart, same lofty goal
>> Baumgartner is 43 and a former Austrian military parachutist with more than 2,500 jumps behind him
>> Baumgartner jumped from 128,100 feet
>> Baumgartner accelerated to 833.9 mph to break the sound barrier, or Mach 1. He went beyond that, achieving Mach 1.24
w Joe Kittinger was 32 and a captain in the US Air Force when he tried to break the record. He’s now 84 and lives near Orlando
w Kittinger made the jump in 1960 from 102,800 feet
w Kittinger was clocked at a maximum 614 mph, equivalent at that altitude to Mach 0.9.
Claustrophobia almost grounded Baumgartner
He’ known as Fearless Felix, but the first man to break the sound barrier had to overcome his own mental demons before he leapt into the history books. Although he has had no trouble jumping off buildings and bridges, and soaring across the English Channel in a carbon-fiber wing, he found himself suffering panic attacks when forced to spend hours inside the pressurised suit and helmet. At one point in 2010, rather than take an endurance test in it, he went to an airport and fled the United States. With the help of a sports psychologist and other specialists, he learned techniques for dealing with the claustrophobia.