Meet the daredevil who broke the sound barrier jumping from SPACE: MailOnline speaks to Felix Baumgartner 10 years after his record-breaking skydive from 128,100 feet
- On 14 October 2012, Felix Baumgartner jumped from edge of space with just a pressure suit and parachute
- He free fell to Earth for more than four minutes, during which time he reached dizzying speeds of 843.6mph
- EXCLUSIVE: To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his jump, MailOnline spoke to Mr Baumgartner, who described his memories of the terrifying stunt – and why he would never attempt it again
The idea of skydiving is enough to get even the most daring adrenaline junkie’s palms sweating.
And while the average skydive takes place from a height of around 10,000ft, this pales in comparison to a record-breaking jump that took place 10 years ago.
On this day in 2012, daredevil Felix Baumgartner, now 53, jumped from the edge of space, armed only with a pressure suit, a parachute, and nerves of steel.
He free fell to Earth for more than four minutes, during which time he reached dizzying speeds of 843.6mph and broke the sound barrier, before opening his parachute and safely gliding down to land in New Mexico.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his jump, MailOnline spoke to Mr Baumgartner, who described his memories of the terrifying stunt – and why he would never attempt it again.
On this day in 2012, daredevil Felix Baumgartner, now 53, jumped from the edge of space, armed only with a pressure suit, a parachute, and nerves of steel
Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump
On 14 October 2012, millions of people around the world eagerly tuned in to watch Mr the record-breaking jump from the edge of space, which played out live across 77 TV channels and online.
At 9:28 MDT, Mr Baumgartner boarded the Red Bull Stratos capsule wearing a pressurised suit, before soaring up to the edge of space, guided by a helium balloon.
Once the capsule reached an altitude of 127,852.4ft (38,969.4 metres), Mr Baumgarnter stepped off.
His freefall back to Earth lasted 4 minutes 30 seconds, and saw him reach dizzying speeds of 843.6mph (357.6 kph).
Once at 8,421.3ft (2,566.8 metres) above sea level, he pulled his chute and parachuted down to the ground.
Mr Baumgartner was an accomplished skydiver who had completed thousands of jumps before setting his sights on space.
His inspiration was Captain Joe Kittinger, a retired fighter pilot who had jumped to Earth from 102,800ft back in 1960.
Speaking to MailOnline, he said: ‘As a skydiver, you always want to push the envelope.
‘What Joe accomplished in the 1960s after only 33 skydives – this is what I call a true pioneer.
‘And I had a couple thousand skydives under my belt.
‘You’re always thinking, what more can I do? Go faster? Go higher? It’s always floating out there.’
Mr Baumgartner had previously worked with Red Bull on base jumps, and reached out to them once again with the idea of jumping from space.
‘Because of all the trust I’d built with Red Bull with base jumps, we took on that challenge trying to find the right people,’ he explained.
This included his inspiration, Joe Kittinger, who agreed to help him.
‘Joe made it very clear the first time I met him – I’m interested but I’m only going to support you if you take it seriously. You can’t go from zero to hero. We have to do it the right way.’
The two years that followed involved rigorous planning and testing, which wasn’t always smooth sailing.
‘A lot of people didn’t believe in us, so it took us a while to convince people to come on board,’ Mr Baumgartner said. ‘We had to be really patient.’
The plan was simple – Mr Baumgartner would board the Red Bull Stratos capsule wearing a pressurised suit, before soaring up to the edge of space, guided by a helium balloon.
Once he reached an altitude of 114,829ft (35,000 metres), Mr Baumgartner would open the capsule door and jump, freefalling for four minutes before opening his parachute and gliding to the ground.
While the entire mission would take less than three hours, Mr Baumgartner knew there were several things that could go wrong.
‘It’s a very hostile environment up there. If the suit fails, your blood would start to boil and you’d die in 15 seconds,’ he said.
‘The parachute could malfunction or you could flat spin, which pushes all your blood into your skull. If that happens, at a certain RPM your blood only has one way out – through your eyeballs.’
Mr Baumgartner was an accomplished skydiver who had completed thousands of jumps before setting his sights to space
Despite surviving the stunt unscathed, his main concern was whether or not he had hit his key goal – breaking the sound barrier
Following a briefing with a doctor, Mr Baumgartner was told the ‘good news’ – if something went wrong ‘it would only take 15 seconds to die.’
The launch was originally scheduled for 9 October 2012, but was aborted due to adverse weather conditions.
‘The first test got called off, and we only had one spare balloon,’ said Mr Baumgartner. ‘If the second test failed, we would have had to wait another six months to try again.’
Thankfully, Mr Baumgartner woke up on the 14 October to better conditions, and felt optimistic for the second launch attempt.
‘You wake up a 2am and go out to mission control, do the weather brief and medical tests,’ he described.
‘They put on my pressure suit and then put me in the capsule. Once the balloon launched, it was a big relief – we were on the way.’
During the 90 minute ascent, several questions were going through Mr Baumgartner’s head.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his jump, MailOnline spoke to Mr Baumgartner, who described his memories of the terrifying stunt – and why he would never attempt it again
Thankfully, the data revealed that Mr Baumgartner had not only broken the speed of sound, but had also hit Mach 1.25 – 1.25 times the speed of sound
‘Will we reach jump altitude of 35,000 metres? Can I even open the door? It might be frozen shut?’ he described.
His worries were put to rest, however, when the capsule reached 38,969.3 metres (127,852 feet) and the door opened without a hitch, at which point he knew there was only one way down.
While you might think Mr Baumgartner would be nervous at this point, he explained how he actually felt strangely peaceful.
‘I looked up and the sky was black,’ he said.
‘It was completely silent. All you can hear is yourself breathing. It was very peaceful.’
As much as he wanted to enjoy that moment, Mr Baumgartner didn’t have long – he had already disconnected from the capsule’s oxygen supply, and now relied on an oxygen cannister, which would only last for 15 minutes.
He saluted the capsule’s camera, took one step forwards and jumped.
As he fell back down to Earth, Mr Baumgartner quickly accelerated, going from 0 to 890mph in just 50 seconds and breaking the sound barrier.
While the footage of his four minute and 19 second descent is terrifying to watch, he explained that he didn’t even feel it.
Ten years on from the jump, Mr Baumgartner says he has no plans to recreate the stunt, and is now focused on his work as an acrobatic helicopter pilot
‘You don’t feel it. There’s nothing rushing by to give you a sense of speed. The suit isn’t flapping because it’s pressurised. So there’s not indication of how fast you’re going,’ he said.
At 1,500 metres (4,921ft) above ground level, Mr Baumgartner opened his parachute and safely glided to the ground in New Mexico.
Despite surviving the stunt unscathed, his main concern was whether or not he had hit his key goal – breaking the sound barrier.
‘Once I landed, I was super happy it had gone well, but I still didn’t know if I’d broken the sound barrier,’ he said.
‘It took 10 minutes to download my data before I knew if I’d done it.’
Thankfully, the data revealed that Mr Baumgartner had not only reached the speed of sound, but had hit Mach 1.25 – 1.25 times the speed of sound.
‘That was a very relieving moment,’ he added.
Ten years on from the jump, Mr Baumgartner says he has no plans to recreate the stunt, and is now focused on his work as an acrobatic helicopter pilot.
‘Of course I wouldn’t do it again! We were trying to accomplish breaking the sound barrier in freefall,’ he said.
‘If we did it again, it’s as risky. Just because it worked once, doesn’t mean it would work again. I’ll leave it to the next generation.’
A new documentary featuring never-before-seen images and perspectives, ‘Space Jump: How Red Bull Stratos Captured the World’s Attention’ premieres on Red Bull TV on October 14.
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.
Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20, but Branson beat him to the punch.
The British billionaire became Virgin Galactic Astronaut 001 when he made it to space on a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos – on July 11 in a test flight.
Bezos travelled to space on July 20 with his younger brother Mark, Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old physics student whose dad purchased his ticket, and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit – but has purchased a ticket with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital flight.
SpaceX became the first of the ‘space tourism’ operators to send a fully civilian crew into orbit, with the Inspiration4 mission funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman.
His flight was on a Dragon capsule and SpaceX rocket built by space-obsessed billionaire, Elon Musk and took off for the three day orbital trip on September 16 – going higher than the International Space Station.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
SpaceX has also taken two groups of astronauts to the |International Space Station, with crew from NASA, ESA and JAXA, the Japanese space agency.
SpaceX has been sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network, which is already in beta and providing fast internet to rural areas.
Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. The final tickets are expected to cost $350,000.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.
Blue Origin are working on New Glenn, the next generation heavy lift rocket, that will compete with the SpaceX Falcon 9.
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