Extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner ended his five years of preparation with a death-defying 23-mile (37km) free fall into the New Mexico desert today.The Austrian become the first human to break the sound barrier unaided by a vehicle.He jump out of a balloon at more than 120,000ft (36.5km) above Roswell, New Mexico.
In the near vacuum at that altitude, he acclerated beyond about 690mph (1,110km/h) within 40 seconds. and arrived 10 minutes after his astonishing jump.
The 43-year-old adventurer – famous for jumping off skyscrapers – is under no illusions about the dangers he faces.At 120,000ft (36,576m), Baumgartner took a freestyle hop from his pressurised capsule into a near-vacuum where there is barely any oxygen to begin what is expected to be the fastest, furthest free fall from the highest-ever manned balloon.
Others who have tried to break the existing records for the highest, fastest and longest freefalls have lost their lives in the process.
The team was in constant communication with Baumgartner, along with former astronaut Joseph Kittinger, whose 1960 free-fall record from 19.5 miles (31km) Baumgartner hopes to break.Joseph set the previous world record on 16 August 1960 Kittinger by jumping from Excelsior III at 102,800 feet. He fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds reaching a maximum speed of 614 mph.
The energy drink maker Red Bull, which was sponsoring the feat, has been promoting a live internet stream of the event from nearly 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and a helicopter.
Although the jump has the appearance of another Baumgartner stunt, his team prefers to stress its high scientific relevance.
The researchers on the Red Bull Stratos project believe it will inform the development of new systems for emergency evacuation from high-performance, high-altitude vehicles. Nasa and its spacecraft manufacturers have asked to be kept informed.