Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year-old former military parachutist, floated for two hours in a purpose-built capsule towed by an enormous helium balloon before leaping into the record books from 128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airline.
He broke the current freefall record of 19.5 miles held by Joe Kittinger. Mr Kittinger, who set his record in 1960, was the only person allowed to communicate with Mr Baumgartner while he was inside the capsule which carried him into space.
As the launch began, Mr Kittinger told Mr Baumgartner: “You’re doing great, Felix. Doing great. Everything looks green and you are on your way to space.”
Mr Baumgartner’s parents were in Roswell, New Mexico for the launch, the first time they had travelled outside of Europe. His mother could be seen weeping as her son launched into space.
While the action took place in the city of Roswell, famed for space-related incidents, attention was worldwide, with millions watching it online.
Coincidentally, Baumgartner’s attempted feat also marked the 65th anniversary of US test pilot Chuck Yeager successful attempt to become the first man to officially break the sound barrier aboard an airplane.
As well as becoming the first man to break the sound barrier unaided, Baumgartner set three other world records during the attempt.
The first came after two hours and two minutes when he broke the record for the highest manned balloon flight, breaking the record of Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather who soared to 113,740ft in 1961. Their record ended in tragedy when Prather drowned in the Gulf of Mexico upon landing.
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