Skydiver lands successfully after 128,000 foot fall

Posted at: 10/14/2012 12:38 PM
Updated at: 10/15/2012 11:44 AM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the speed of sound in free fall.

At a news conference held by the Red Bull Stratos Project, International Federation of Sports Aviation jump observer said preliminary figures showed Baumgartner reaching a maximum speed of 833.9 miles per hour. The speed is equivalent to Mach 1.24 – faster than the speed of sound.

Baumgartner was lifted 128,097 feet into the air by a 700 foot tall stratospheric balloon before jumping, with only a pressurized suit to protect him. International audiences watched his fall via the Red Bull Stratos Livestream. After about 5 minutes of falling, he pushed for his parachute, eventually coming down safely about four minutes later. He lifted his arms in victory.

Sunday’s launch came after a postponed attempt on October 9. The team had planned to start the October 9 launch at 6:30 in the morning, but postponed due to strong winds at 700 feet near the top of the balloon. Officials expected calmer speeds at the 11:30 a.m. launch time, but found that they were too significant to ensure a safe launch, so they scrubbed the day’s mission before almost completely inflating the balloon.

The project has been years in the making with the planning process beginning in 2005.

Red Bull Stratos assembled a team consisting of experts in skydiving, medicine, aerospace engineering and other related fields to organize a successful and productive mission.

The team included retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who holds three of the records Baumgartner intends to break. Kittinger had made a record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960.

The planning process included producing an appropriate suit for the program, finding a location with ideal conditions, and testing out equipment in unmanned test falls.

Then, Baumgartner made test falls at smaller heights. In March 2012, Baumgartner made a test fall at 71,614 ft and in July 2012, a fall from 97,063 feet.