ROSWELL, NM (RNN) – Clapping, laughter and tears filled the mission control room as Austrian pilot and BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner began his historic fall from space.
Baumgartner safely landed on solid ground and took one more "giant leap" after he set multiple records for the highest ever jump from space.
He became the only man to break the speed of sound in a freefall dive, traveling at a peak velocity of 833.9 mph (1,342.8 kph). That speed equated to Mach 1.24.
He leaped more than 128,100 feet - roughly 24 miles - from a capsule in space and landed just a short distance from where he took off.
Baumgartner was briefly in what appeared as a flat spin but regained control after a short time. He also told mission control during the dive that he felt he might pass out and that his visor began to fog and then frost up as his altitude lowered.
But he could not explain what it was like at the moment he broke the sound barrier.
"It's hard to describe because I didn't feel it," Baumgartner said. "When your'e in that pressure suit you don't feel anything. It's kind of like being in a cast. You don't have any reference points to judge your speed."
He also broke the record for the highest manned balloon flight but failed to break the record for the longest freefall time, one that still belongs to his mentor and the man who set the record five decades ago, Col. Joe Kittinger.
Brian Utley, a representative from the International Aeronautic Federation (FAI), confirmed the preliminary data. It is the responsibility of the FAI to submit the flight numbers for confirmation of world records.
Baumgartner finally got past weather delays in the third try for a historic freefall.
He left the ground under perfect weather conditions in the Red Bull Stratos capsule carried by a helium-filled weather balloon about 11:45 a.m. EST Sunday.
His capsule landed about 55 miles away from where he landed.
"I hate if someone calls me a thrill-seeker or an adrenaline junkie because I'm not," Baumgartner said before the jump. "I like the whole planning (process). I like the adventure, but the whole preparation before to get the team together, this is pretty much what I really wanted to do. So having a plan it, starts with thought. It's going in one direction; it's vision, you know.
"And finally it becomes reality."
It took more than two hours for Baumgartner to reach his desired height. Red Bull broadcast live updates of the mission.
It was fitting that Baumgartner's primary human link to earth was the man who previously held the record that the he broke Sunday.
Kittinger – who set the record in 1960 with a 102,800 leap – requested the seat as Baumgartner's contact in the mission control room and coached him through his ascent.
The delays also added more the historic significance of the event.
It was on the same day in 1947 that retired Gen. Chuck Yeager, then a captain and test pilot for the U.S. Air Force, piloted a Bell X-1 and became the first man to break the sound barrier.
The successful liftoff Sunday was a much different outcome than the two previous attempts.
Baumgartner was seconds away from liftoff in New Mexico on Tuesday when mission control decided to cancel it because of the many weather delays.
The launch window was rescheduled to open at 10:45 a.m. EST. The wind was reportedly too strong at the top of the balloon.
The second attempt was originally slated to begin Sunday around 8 a.m. EST.
"I am strapped into the capsule, and I am ready to go." Baumgartner reported to mission control right before the launch was set to begin Tuesday.
The weather forced his ascent in a 55-story, ultra-thin helium balloon that was to take him to the stratosphere to be canceled.
Because the balloon is so delicate, it can only take flight if winds are 2 mph or below. It is the largest balloon to ever carry a human into orbit.
Mission meteorologist Don Day said the initial second attempt was going to be Thursday, but because of still gusty winds, he said Sunday looked favorable for the launch.
"I like what I see on Sunday," Day said. "It will again be a matter of what happens with the winds on the top of the balloon."
Another delay would have forced the crew to push the mission back several weeks instead of days because the balloon was a backup, and there was not another one readily available.
Baumgartner, a skydiver who has performed world record-breaking BASE jumps, has launched into the air on the mission to push the limits of his skydiving career.
The Red Bull Stratos is a project conceived by several daredevils and scientists.
The main objective of Stratos was to break the 52-year-old record for the longest successful human freefall.
Decades later, Kittinger joined the Stratos team as an advisor to the project and mentor to Baumgartner throughout the mission.
Baumgartner has been preparing for his latest feat for five years - both physically and mentally.
"You have to remember all the procedures," he said in a CNN interview during testing for the jump. "You know you're in a really hostile environment. And you cannot think about anything else. You have to be focused. Otherwise, you're going to die," Baumgartner said.
The space suit Baumgartner was wearing was crucial to his survival. A breach of the suit could have resulted in collapsing lungs, boiling blood, and eyes popping out of his head.
Although this mission might sound like a big-time effort for a high-octane adrenaline rush, there's a scientific purpose to it as well.
The Stratos launch into the atmosphere will help to develop new types of space suits, create a procedure for human exposure to high acceleration and altitude, test new parachute systems, and discover the effects of supersonic speeds on the human body.
But the end result was much simpler for the man at the center of the show.
"When you're on top of the world, you become so humbled you do not think about setting records," Baumgartner. "You don't think about getting data. All you want to do is come back alive. You don't want to die in front of your family and girlfriend.
"Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are."
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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