By Ryan Owens
“Fearless” Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic skydive from 24 miles above the New Mexico desert was a rousing success, and the Austrian daredevil has described his speed of sound shattering descent as “like swimming without touching the water.”
Baumgartner, whose Sunday freefall was watched around the world, was at one point traveling at 833 mph or Mach 1.24, and he shattered the speed of sound during his 4 minute 20 second freefall. He is the only human to do so without the aid of a supersonic jet or space shuttle.
“It’s like swimming without touching the water, and it’s hard because every time it turns you around you have to figure out what to do. So I was sticking my arm out then it became worse,” he said. “I had a lot of pressure in my head. But I didn’t feel like I was passing out. I was still feeling ok, I — I thought, ‘I can handle the situation.’ And I did.”
Dangling from a 55-story balloon with a capsule beneath, which took two and a half hours to reach the edge of space, the skydiver and B.A.S.E. jumper leapt after getting the okay from the only voice he heard during his ascent – that of 84-year-old Joe Kittinger, a former air force pilot who in 1960 set the record for longest skydive.
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“There it is the world is out there,” Kittinger said to Felix as he looked down at Earth below. “Our guardian angel will take care of you.”
Baumgartner, 43, then disconnected himself from the capsule, put his hands on the capsule’s railing – and then took the leap. He began his fall from 24 miles above — four times higher than most passenger jets fly.
During the fee fall, Baumgartner was plummeting so fast he was barely a speck on the infrared camera tracking him. For 35 seconds of the fall, he was spinning out of control — something his team feared could cause him to lose consciousness.
“It started pretty good because my exit was perfect. I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and then I was falling over,” Baumgartner said, once safely on the ground. “It looked like for a second that I was going to tumble two more times, and have it under control. But for some reason, that spin became so violent over all axis, and it was hard to know how to get out of that spin.”
“If you are in that situation and it spins you around like hell, and you do not know if you can get out of that spin or not. Of course that is terrifying … I was frightened all the way down to regain control, because I wanted to break the speed of sound. And I hit it. I don’t know after how many seconds, I could feel air was pulling up, and I hit it,” he said.
For a terror-inducing 4 minutes and 20 seconds Baumgartner freefalls, his body plummeting toward the earth at 833 miles an hour.
Baumgartner finally managed to regain control, and deploy his parachute. He somehow managed to land perfectly on his feet in the New Mexico desert.
With the aid of his team, became the only man to achieve a supersonic skydive, and broke two other records, including the highest exit from a platform at 128,000 feet, and the highest free-fall without a drogue parachute, which was measured at 119,846 feet.
Baumgartner said he didn’t only do the stunt to set a record. He also did it for science, as the jump could help NASA design better and stronger spacesuits for astronauts.
Doctors said the data from Baumgartner’s jump will “break new ground.”
When asked what he would do next, Baumgartner said he’d like to be sitting in his mentor’s chair.
“Honestly I want to inspire the next generation,” he said. “I would love if there was a young guy sitting next to me asking what my advice is, wanting to break my record.”