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It was a historical stunt that may never be duplicated again as daredevil Felix Baumgartner landed safely on earth after completing a “supersonic leap” from the edge of space and safely to land. The Austrian thrill-seeker broke the record for the highest balloon jump on Sunday afternoon, Pacific time.
“I’m coming home,” Baumgartner said before he jumped out of a capsule 24 miles above of the earth, as millions around the world watched online.
Baumgartner was in freefall for approximately 4 minutes and 22 seconds, during which time he aimed to break the speed of sound. Indicators from Baumgartner’s team said he did, however the result awaits an official confirmation.
“My visor is fogging up,” he told ground control over his radio.
Moments later, his parachute opened, allowing the daredevil’s family and training team on the ground to breathe a massive sigh of relief.
“I practiced this for so many years,” Baumgartner said while training for the big jump. “This is my biggest dream.”
It took approximately three hours for the balloon to rise to 120,000 feet today, which is also the 65th anniversary of when legendary pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier.
Baumgartner’s attempted feat could ordinarily be accomplished only by a supersonic jet, or perhaps the space shuttle. Before the jump, Baumgartner said he was confident he could do it.
The pressure is so low at 120,000 feet that if Baumgartner’s suit had failed, his lungs would have burst and his blood would have boiled.
Luke Aiken, the designer of the Baumgartner’s parachute, said earlier this week that the stunt is even more dangerous than it sounds.
“There’s virtually no air. He’s in a vacuum. He has no control. If he steps off goofy, if he pushes harder with one foot, it could induce a turn, and that’s where we could get into thing that everybody talks about — this flat spin,” said Aiken.
Threats of extreme cold, extreme temperature fluctuations and the possibility of an uncontrolled flat spin, which could hit 220 rpm, were all potential dangers of the stunt.
Baumgartner has successfully leaped twice from lower altitudes, but 120,000 feet shattered the record set 52 years ago by former Air Force pilot Joe Kittinger, who is now 84 years old.
Baumgartner said he wasn’t doing this only to set a record. He’s also doing it for science, as the jump could help NASA design better and stronger spacesuits for astronauts.
Baumgartner was attempting to shatter several records, including:
First Human to break the speed of sound in free-fall (Mach 1 more than 690 mph)
Highest free-fall altitude -120,000 feet (Joe Kittinger hit 105,000 feet in 1960)
Highest manned balloon flight at 120,000 feet (previous record was 113,740 feet in 1961)
Longest free-fall (Baumgartner’s team expects 5 minutes, 35 seconds; Kittinger’s was 4 minutes, 36 seconds in 1960)
Largest manned balloon in history at 550 feet tall, with a volume of 30 million cubic feet
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