Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner, has successfully completed a leap from the edge of space, breaking the world record for the highest ever skydive by jumping out of a balloon 128, 000ft (24 miles, 39km) above New Mexico.
Although, he reportedly hit a speed in excess of 700 miles an hour during the fall and broke the sound barrier, any new marks he may have achieved awaits confirmation. According to the BBC, new marks reportedly set must be endorsed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) before they are official.
Baumgartner's unofficially marks, according to the BBC: "The Austrian jumped from 128,097ft (24.2 miles; 39km). He fell for four minutes and 19 seconds, reaching a speed of 706mph (1,137km/h)."
USA Today reports he activated his parachute at 9,500 feet above sea level, or about 5,000 feet above the ground in southeastern New Mexico. The total jump took less than 10 minutes.
According to The Huffington Post, as he exited his capsule in preparation for the historic jump at a height more than three times the average cruising altitude for jetliners, he flashed a thumbs-up sign. The Huffington Post reports, "Any contact with the capsule on his exit could have torn his pressurized suit, a rip that could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as minus-70 degrees. That could have caused lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids."
Felix Baumgartner in the capsule
More than 7.8 million watched on YouTube as he prepared to jump. According to The Huffington Post, Red Bull posted a picture of the diver on his knees after he landed. The picture generated about 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments and more than 29,000 shares in less than 40 minutes.
During the ascent to the height of 128,000 feet, he complained about lack of heat in his helmet visor, raising questions whether the ascent should continue. And while he was falling, he spun dangerously but soon managed to bring it under control.
As he ascended, he listened to his mentor, retired Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, 84, whose record he was trying to beat. According to the BBC, Kittinger leaped from a helium envelope in 1960 from an altitude of 102,800ft (31.3km). The url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19943590 t=_blank]BBC reports that Kittinger's mark for the longest freefall remains unbeaten. He fell for over four and a half minutes before deploying his parachute.
Felix Baumgartner in the capsule that lifted him to 128,045 feet
Baumgartner worked up towards beating the record jump for a few years with major problems along the way.The mission was delayed when promoter Daniel Hogan sued Red Bull Stratos, saying that he thought of the idea of the jump first. However, an out of court settlement was reached last summer.
The jump was postponed because of unexpected winds on Monday and Tuesday. According to USA Today, Baumgartner "unaccustomed to freefalling while confined by a helmet and cumbersome suit... started suffering panic attacks and pulled himself off the project. He overcame his fears with the help of a sports psychologist."
Baumgartner told USA Today, after a test jump from nearly 100,000 feet: "It was simple stuff. I'd put on a helmet and tell him, from one to 10, how panicked I felt. And in the end, no matter what the number was, he told me my pulse rate never changed. So it was all in my head."
The extreme athlete came to the attention of energy drink maker Red Bull after he jumped off the world's tallest building, Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers, 1,483 feet, and then off Rio de Janeiro's 130-foot Christ the Redeemer statue In 2007.
In collaboration with Red Bull, he decided to break Kittinger's 52-year-record.
Felix Baumgartner - freefall from the edge of space
The major risk he took in the jump was going into an uncontrolled spin that could make him loose consciousness and damage his internal organs, USA Today reports.
Red Bull, which sponsored the event, provided a live Internet stream from about 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and on a helicopter. The broadcast had a 20-second delay in case of an accident.
According to USA Today, Baumgartner said before the jump that he would not be attempting more jumps. He said:"This is the end of my journey. I've always been trying to find my limit, and this pretty much it. For the second half of my life, I want to be a good helicopter pilot. Fight fires. Rescue people. That would be fun."
Baumgartner's mission dubbed "Red Bull Stratos," was sponsored by the company that makes the energy drink.