Austrian skydiver breaks records, sound barrier | News | DW | 14.10.2012
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Austrian skydiver breaks records, sound barrier

Felix Baumgartner has successfully completed his record-breaking skydive. The Austrian broke the record for the highest-ever skydive and surpassed the speed of sound during his freefall.

A couple of hours after Felix Baumgartner landed in the southern US state of New Mexico, officials confirmed that he had broken the sound barrier.

Brian Utley of the international Federation of Sports Aviation told a news conference in Roswell, New Mexico that Baumgartner had reached a maximum speed of 1,342 kilometers per hour (833.9 miles per hour) or 1.24 times the speed of sound. This made him the first person to break the sound barrier without using an aircraft.

For the jump, the experienced pilot and skydiver travelled to a height of approximately 39-kilometers (23 miles) in a pressurized capsule hanging from a large helium balloon. The ascent took well over two hours to complete.

Wearing a spacesuit designed to protect against the low air pressure and temperature, Baumgartner then jumped from the capsule. After a freefall lasting four minutes and 19 seconds he deployed his parachute - the entire jump took just over nine minutes.

Having deployed his parachute earlier than planned, Baumgartner failed to break the record for the longest-ever freefall, which his project advisor, Joe Kittinger, continues to hold - from a jump the now 84-year-old American performed in 1960.

However, the 43-year-old Austrian did break a more than 50-year-old record for the highest-ever parachute jump as well as the highest manned balloon flight.

Watch video 01:12

A skydive from the edge of space

"It was way harder than I expected," Baumgartner told reporters shortly after his landing.

Because the jump had to be scrapped several times over the past week due to high winds, Baumgartner wound up becoming the first skydiver to break the sound barrier on the 65th anniversary of the first aircraft to do so, piloted by American pilot Chuck Yeager on October 14, 1947.

One of the first to congratulate Baumgartner on his jump was Austrian President Heinz Fischer.

"I warmly congratulate Felix Baumgartner on this great success, which was achieved with courage and perseverance and is finding worldwide attention. Austria is proud of your accomplishment," the president wrote on his Facebook page.

pfd/ch (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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