Austrian skydiver and BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner has completed a freefall of more than 39,000 metres (128,000 feet) and potentially broken three world records in the process.
Under the guidance of the man who once held the record for the world’s highest freefall, Col Joe Kittinger, Baumgartner took over two-and-half hours to ascend to 39,044m (128,097 feet) in what was the world’s highest manned balloon flight. But this was just the first of three world records Baumgartner broke today.
Baumgartner then leapt from the capsule that carried him to the edge of space, completing not only the highest freefall on record but also the world’s fastest freefall, reaching 1,137km/h. The freefall lasted 4 minutes and 19 seconds, and Baumgartner reached terra firma in just nine minutes and 3 seconds following the jump.
The entire event unfolded live online via YouTube after previously scheduled attempts were postponed due to weather concerns.
Col Kittinger’s record was 31,333 metres (102,800 feet), achieved in 1960. He communicated with Baumgartner from mission control throughout the jump up to the point where he landed safely in Roswell, New Mexico.
The launch and freefall were the result of five years of planning from the Red Bull Stratos project and could provide useful scientific data for research into aerospace safety. The team are currently awaiting official confirmation of securing three world records and a press conference is due to take place online later today.
UPDATE: The official figures from Brian Nutley of the National Aeronautics Association in the US put the exit altitude (the height that Baumgartner jumped from) at 39,045m (128,100 feet). The distance travelled during the freefall was 36,529m (119,846 feet) and it lasted four minutes and 20 seconds. The maximum speed achieved by Baumgartner’s body during the jump was 373m/s, which equates to 833.9mph or Mach 1.24 – greater than the speed of sound. This preliminary data will be submitted to international bodies for certification before an official world record statement is made.
Baumgartner thanked his team and said that standing atop the world humbled him and that his main aim was to come back alive. He also clarified the words he spoke right before the jump as, "Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are."