On this day in history, Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver and pilot, set three world records when he jumped from a balloon that had taken him to the edge of Space on Oct. 14, 2012.
Baumgartner, who was 43 at the time of the record, set world records for free-fall distance and speed, as well as altitude.The three FAI world records he set were:
- Maximum Vertical Speed (without drogue): 1,357.6 km/h (equivalent to 843.6 mph/Mach 1.25);
- Exit (jump) Altitude: 38,969.4m (equivalent to 127,852.4 feet) above mean sea level;
- Vertical Distance of Freefall (without drogue): 36,402.6 meters (equivalent to 119,431.1 feet)
All three records were verified by the FAI, World Air Sports Federation, which had a representative at the jump.
The jump from the edge of Space attracted a huge global audience when it was broadcast live online. Baumgartner also established a world first, becoming the first human to break the sound barrier without propulsion or protection, according to FAI officials.
Baumgartner ascended to his jump height suspended in a capsule below a huge gas balloon, launched from Roswell, New Mexico. After reaching 39,000 m he exited the balloon and went into free fall for 4 minutes, 20 seconds. After deploying his parachute he then descended for a further 4 minutes, 43 seconds, giving him a total jump duration of 9 minutes, 3 seconds.
Baumgartner beat the previous record set by US Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger in 1960. Kittinger had jumped from 31,000 m, 102,800 feet.
Baumgartner had been planning to make the jump for seven years, since first seriously examining the idea in 2005. A base jumper and experienced skydiver with over 2,500 jumps, he wore a full pressure suit, similar to those used by astronauts, during the ascent and the jump.
The jump was not only a high profile stunt. Baumgartner’s team gathered invaluable and unique data for the development of high-altitude parachute systems, FAI officials report.
Immediately after landing, Baumgartner fell onto his knees and raised his arms in success. At a press conference immediately afterwards he said he had been “humbled” by the experience.
“Let me tell you — when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble. You don’t think about breaking records anymore, you don’t think about gaining scientific data — the only thing that you want is to come back alive.”
Baumgartner’s record jump was superseded on Oct. 24, 2014, when Google computer scientist Alan Eustace jumped from a gas balloon at 41,422 meters. Unlike Baumgartner, who ascended in a capsule, Eustace hung from his gas balloon by a tether. When the time came for his release, he started his fall by using an explosive device to separate from the balloon.