Oct 15 2012 By Cheryl Mullin
DAREDEVIL skydiver Felix Baumgartner has become the first man to reach supersonic speed without travelling in a jet or a spacecraft after hopping out of a capsule from more than 24 miles above the Earth.
Baumgartner hit Mach 1.24, or 833.9mph (1,342kph) last night, then made a soft landing on his feet in the New Mexico desert.
The man known as Fearless Felix said: “When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore, you do not think about gaining scientific data,”
“The only thing you want is to come back alive.”
A worldwide audience watched live on the internet via cameras mounted on his capsule as Baumgartner, wearing a pressurised suit, stood in the doorway of his capsule, gave a thumbs-up and leapt into the stratosphere.
His descent lasted just over nine minutes, about half of it in a free fall of 119,846ft (36,530m), according to Brian Utley, a jump observer from the FAI, an international group which works to determine and maintain the integrity of aviation records.
He said the speed calculations were preliminary figures
The 43-year-old Austrian former paratrooper with more than 2,500 jumps behind him had taken off early yesterday in a capsule carried by a 55-storey ultra-thin helium balloon.
His ascent was tense at times and included concerns about how well his visor was working, when it appeared to frost over.
After gentlty gliding back to earth he was taken by helicopter to meet fellow members of his team, whom he hugged in celebration.
Baumgartner’s accomplishment came on the 65th anniversary of the day that US test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to officially break the sound barrier in a jet.
Yeager, in fact, commemorated that feat yesterday, flying in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000ft (9,144m) above California’s Mojave Desert.
Baumgartner has said he plans to settle down with his girlfriend and fly helicopters on mountain rescue and firefighting missions in the US and Austria.
Before that, though, he said: “I’ll go back to LA to chill out for a few days... will take it easy as hell, trust me.”