Skydiver Felix Baumgartner completes 18-mile freefall ahead of world record attempt
Skydiver Felix Baumgartner has completed an 18 mile jump down to Earth as final preparations for a record-breaking attempt to jump 22 miles in freefall and break the sound barrier.
The test jump, which took place on Wednesday over Roswell, New Mexico, saw the Austrian leap from a helium filled balloon in a fall that lasted 3 minutes and 48 seconds and during which Baumgartner reached speeds of 536mph (862km).
Wearing a specialised space suit and oxygen helmet to protect him from the altitude changes, Baumgartner landed safely in the desert and was able to walk away smiling from the scene. The leap, at 96,640ft, beats that of Russian Yevgeny Andreyev, set in 1962 from a height of 83,523ft, making him only the second person to have successfully completed such a jump.
At his return, technical project director Art Thompson said: “It’s hard not to get emotional about today. We are just so glad to have Felix back on the ground after a long week with significant weather challenges. The crew did a great job.”
The test launch was twice delayed due to adverse weather conditions, but Baumgartner and his team were not dissuaded. The team is now making preparations for Baumgartner’s record breaking freefall attempt, though the date, reliant on weather conditions and further assessments, is yet to be set. Should the fall prove a success, Baumgartner would break the record set 52 years ago by Joe Kittinger, who is now Baumgartner’s mentor.
“Felix is the perfect guy to do it,” said Kittinger. “He’s an incredible, trained professional athlete, and he’s dedicated to making a scientific contribution.”