Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian pilot and skydiver, jumped from an altitude of 128,097 feet Sunday, breaking the speed of sound, as the world watched the Red Bull Stratos mission unfold live on webcast. Minutes later, Baumgartner landed safely near Roswell, New Mexico, after a 4:19-minute free fall, reaching an estimated top speed of 834.37 mph.
During the mission, Baumgartner set three world records: top speed during free fall, free fall from the highest altitude, and highest manned balloon flight. Although he touched down solidly on both feet, he fell on both knees and raised his arms in the air in celebration. It was a sudden finish to a suspense-filled day -- and week.
Seven years in the making, Baumgartner's jump was originally scheduled for last Monday. A cold front pushed the launch to Tuesday, and the Red Bull Stratos team were moments from lift-off when a gust of wind compromised the helium balloon that essentially serves as the engine to take Baumgarnter up to the stratosphere. The 43-year-old Austrian was inside the capsule when the mission was pushed once again.
On Sunday, Baumgartner's capsule finally lifted off at 11:31 a.m. EST (9:31 a.m. at the launch location, Roswell, New Mexico) to applause on the runway and inside mission control. The ascent to 128,000 feet -- 24.5 miles above sea level -- took more than 2 hours and 20 minutes.
At the "float" altitude, Baumgartner went through an extensive egress checklist with Joe Kittinger, Red Bull Stratos flight operations and safety director, at mission control on the ground. When the checklist was complete, Kittinger said, "Start the cameras, and our guardian angel will take care of you."
Baumgartner said, "The whole world is watching," before stepping into his free fall. In free fall, he reached an incredible speed of Mach 1.24 (834.37 mph) before slowing down and deploying his parachute.
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