Skydiver sets 3 records with 24-mile leap

Oct. 14, 2012 at 7:26 PM
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ROSWELL, N.M., Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier Sunday in a world record-shattering jump from a balloon floating 24 miles above the Earth.

Baumgartner lifted off from Roswell, N.M., at 9:31 a.m. MDT in a capsule attached to a 55-story helium-filled balloon. He ascended high above the New Mexico desert before jumping out. Video from a live feed showed his parachute opened and he floated safely to the ground.

The dangerous free fall was originally scheduled for last Tuesday, but high winds twisted his balloon -- made from a material 1-10th the thickness of a sandwich bag -- and ruined it, CNN said.

Starting from the edge of space, Baumgartner, 43, became the first human to break the sound barrier -- reaching a top speed of 833 mph, or Mach 1.24 -- and also set records for the highest exit from a platform at 128,000 feet and the highest free-fall without a drogue parachute, which was measured at 119,846 feet, ABC News reported.

"It is hard to describe [breaking the speed of sound] because I didn't feel it," Baumgartner said after the jump. "When you're in a dead pressure suit [and without reference points] you don't feel anything."

Baumgartner accomplished his feat despite his visor fogging up, feeling considerable pressure on his head and going into a spin.

"It's hard to tell what happened because I have to look at the video footage. ... Somehow I started spinning ... . It felt like a flat spin," he said.

One record he didn't break was for the length of his free fall. His time of 4 minutes, 20 seconds fell short of the 4 minutes, 36 seconds logged 52 years ago by U.S. Air Force officer Joe Kittinger.

"Better champions cannot be found. ... He did a fantastic job today," Kittinger said. "[And] I'd like to give a special one finger salute to all the folks who said he was going to come apart when he went supersonic."

Coincidentally, Baumgartner made his free fall on the 65th anniversary of legendary pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in a jet.

Baumgartner said he wants to "inspire the next generation."

"I would love if there was a young guy sitting next to me asking what my advice is, wanting to break my record," he said.

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