There is only one way to describe the raw footage of Felix Baumgartner’s sky dive from the edge of space: awe-inspiring. Falling from 24.2 miles above the Earth, he achieved a top speed of 843.6 mph – or Mach 1.25 – and became the first human to break the sound barrier. “Breaking the speed of sound by a human – it was one of the last firsts,” he said before jumping.
Baumgartner leapfrogged a number of worthy contenders for National Geographic’s ‘Adventurer of the Year‘ title in spectacular style and won the ‘People’s Choice‘ award into the bargain. He was shepherded down by previous space jump record holder Joe Kittinger, who was in constant contact with Felix all the way down. At one point he went into a near fatal spin. Passing out would have meant almost certain death and Kittinger talked to him to assess his state of mind.
“Feels like I have to pass out,” he said as he spiraled earthwards. Baumgartner managed to flatten out the spin and regain control to pull his drogue chute, slowing his descent in the thin air and allowing him to stabilise to pull the main parachute.
Watch the video to see just how hair-raising his descent was. The jump itself started in the cold calm serenity between space and the Earth. Enclosed in his pressurised capsule he rose to 127,852.4 feet at 1,000 feet per minute. Once there he depressurised the cabin as it reached equilibrium with the atmosphere, severed his umbilical with the capsule and stepped out into the fringes of space, reborn. It was 65 years to the day that Chuck Yeager had broken the sound barrier in the experimental Bell X1 jet.
Baumgartner’s jump was not simply a test of human endurance, it was also to assess a new type of spacesuit. Practicalities aside, he said that his defining experience was incredibly humbling, telling reporters: “It’s not about breaking records anymore. It’s not about getting scientific data. It’s all about coming home.”