Felix Baumgartner: First person to break sound barrier in freefall
An unprecedented eight million people went onto YouTube on 14 October 2012 to witness the game-changing moment Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner completed a parachute jump from a height of 38,969.4 metres, smashing through eight world records and the sound barrier in the space of just three hours.
Five years in scrupulous planning, the $20-million (£12.45-million) Red Bull Stratos project made history that day, signalling a huge leap forward in the world’s knowledge about the way the body copes with extreme conditions near space.
At 9:28 a.m. local time (3:28 p.m. GMT), Felix lifted off from Roswell, New Mexico, USA. Destination: the edge of space. Within the next few hours, Felix would be back on Earth having become the First human to break the sound barrier in freefall, completed the Highest freefall parachute jump (38,969.4 m / 127,852 ft) and achieved the Fastest speed in freefall (1,357.6 km/h / 843.6 mph).
Born to fly
Felix was born in 1969, but his journey truly began at the age of 16, when he completed his first ever skydive.
The thrill sucked him in and he continued to challenge himself with extreme parachuting. He soon took up BASE jumping, another seriously dangerous sport that involves parachuting or wingsuit flying from a fixed structure or cliff.
Felix went on to join the Austrian military, where he spent many years perfecting his parachute jumping and learned how to land on small target zones.
He later left the army and for a short while supported himself by repairing motorbikes.
But, Felix said, “The air is where I am at home.”
He has a tattoo on his forearm in Gothic font that says ‘Born to fly’.
The Red Bull Stratos mission
Felix went to Red Bull before it came to him – he approached the energy drinks company and asked them to sponsor him to do a BASE jump from the 860-ft New River George Bridge in West Virginia, USA. They refused him, but a determined Felix went on to do the stunt regardless.
Thirty-two BASE jumps later, Red Bull agreed to sponsor him, kicking off his career as a showman for the company.
He mastered the BASE jump and found fame by expertly throwing himself off landmarks and the world’s tallest buildings in front of cameras. But: “I mean, how many highest buildings in the world do you want to do? The concept was always the same.”
Felix sought after even greater heights and resolved to break Joseph Kittinger’s (USA) 52-year-old record for the highest freefall parachute jump. With that, Red Bull and Baumgartner’s ultimate challenge was set in motion.