Austrian skydiving daredevil Felix Baumgartner is more than halfway toward his goal of setting a world record for the highest free-fall jump.
Felix Baumgartner, 42, is aiming for nearly 23 miles this summer. The record is 19.5 miles.
The adventurer lifted off Thursday for a test jump from Roswell, New Mexico, aboard a 100-foot helium balloon. He rode inside a pressurized capsule to 71,581 feet – 13.6 miles – and then jumped.
Felix Baumgartner parachuted to a safe landing, according to project spokeswoman Trish Medalen.
“The view is amazing, way better than I thought,” Felix Baumgartner said after the practice jump, in remarks provided by his representatives.
Thursday’s rehearsal was a test of his capsule, full-pressure suit, parachutes and other systems.
A mini Mission Control – fashioned after NASA’s – monitored Felix Baumgartner’s flight.
Felix Baumgartner reached speeds of up to 364.4 mph Thursday and was in free fall for three minutes and 43 seconds, before pulling his parachute cords. The entire jump lasted eight minutes and eight seconds.
With Thursday’s successful test, Felix Baumgartner is believed to be only the third person ever to jump from such a high altitude and free fall to a safe landing, and the first in a half-century.
“I’m now a member of a pretty small club,” Felix Baumgartner said.
When the Austrian skydiver known as “Fearless Felix” leaps from 120,000 feet in a few months, he expects to break the sound barrier as he falls through the stratosphere at supersonic speed.
There’s virtually no atmosphere that far up, making it extremely hostile to humans, thus the need for a pressure suit and oxygen supply.
The record for the highest free fall is held by Joe Kittinger, a retired Air Force officer from Florida. He jumped from 102,800 feet – 19.5 miles – in 1960.
Felix Baumgartner is out to beat that record.
He plans one more dry run – jumping from 90,000 feet – before attempting the full 120,000 feet. The launch window opens in July and extends until the beginning of October.
For comparison, commercial jets generally cruise at over 30,000 feet.
Felix Baumgartner has jumped 2,500 times from planes and helicopters, as well as some of the highest landmarks and skyscrapers on the planet.
Among his conquests: the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, the Millau Viaduct in southern France, the 101-story Taipei 101 in Taiwan.
Felix Baumgartner has also plunged deep into the Earth, leaping face-first into a pitch-dark cave in Croatia.
He considers that 620-foot-deep cave jump his most dangerous feat so far, soon to be outdone by his stratospheric plunge.
Felix Baumgartner’s mission takes its name, Red Bull Stratos, from the stratosphere as well as the energy drink-maker sponsor.
“I like to challenge myself and this is the ultimate skydive. I think there’s nothing bigger than that,” Felix Baumgartner told The Associated Press in a recent interview
Felix Baumgartner has caught NASA’s attention, even though space officially begins much higher at an even 100 kilometers, 328,084 feet or 62 miles.