In the early morning hours, aerial daredevil Felix Baumgartner stepped from a balloon carrying a pressurized capsule floating 96,640 feet above the sun-scorched earth near Roswell, N.M., and free-fell for 3 minutes and 48 seconds -- hitting 536 mph along the way.
After the free-fall, he opened his parachute and fluttered back to Earth. He safely hit the ground about 10 minutes and 30 seconds after the initial jump.
Baumgartner’s jump on Wednesday was part of an ongoing effort to break the 52-year-old world record of 102,800 feet held by Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger. The endeavor, called Stratos, is sponsored by the energy drink company Red Bull.
Baumgartner, a 43-year-old Austrian national, plans to jump from the edge of the atmosphere at 120,000 feet, or 22 miles above Earth, before the end of September. The recent jump was meant to get the team one step closer to setting the record.
In order to get to such high altitudes -- which is three nearly times as high as where passenger jets typically fly -- Baumgartner is lifted by a massive helium-filled balloon. At such high altitudes, he has to wear a pressure suit that resembles a space suit.
It took about 90 minutes to reach the jumping-off point before Baumgartner stepped into the open air.
The jump Wednesday marked the second test jump for a project that has been five years in the making. In the previous test jump in March, Baumgarnter fell from 71,580 feet.
During the next and final mission, Baumgartner is expected to break the sound barrier. If that occurs, it will mark the first time a free-falling human being goes supersonic.
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