On Sunday millions of people worldwide were captivated by the sight of a tiny, one-man capsule being carried aloft by a gigantic 55-story helium-filled balloon. Inside the cramped capsule, Austrian paratrooper Felix Baumgartner prepared to become the first man to break the speed of sound while free falling 24 miles to earth.
The capsule ascended into space at the rate of 1,000 feet per minute. It took roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes for the capsule to ascend 128,100 feet above earth, breaking the record for the highest non-aircraft altitude.
24 miles above the earth, Baumgartner, 43, stepped out onto the capsule’s small ledge and bunny hopped into space. He shattered the speed barrier even as he went into an uncontrolled spin, eventually reaching a top speed of 833 mph (Mach 1.24) about 30 seconds into his jump.
About 9 minutes later, Baumgartner landed safely on his feet in the desert of Roswell, New Mexico with the aid of a parachute that deployed halfway through his descent. His supersonic free fall was watched live online by millions of onlookers around the world.
“Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are,” Baumgartner said after the jump.
It is estimated that the sky dive mission cost millions of dollars and 8 years in the planning stages. The mission was sponsored by the makers of Red Bull energy drink.