The remarkable story of the man who traveled faster than the speed of sound free-falling from space

Imagine breaking the sound barrier... with your body.
  • Skydiver and daredevil Felix Baumgartner set a world record for the fastest speed traveled outside of a vehicle
  • Baumgartner free-fell from 38 km (!) above Earth
  • In order to get up there, they had to build a balloon the size of 33 soccer pitches

Published on Feb 29, 2024 at 1:05PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Mar 6, 2024 at 2:13PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Adam Gray

Multiple scientists told him, on more than one occasion, that he was attempting the impossible.

But this man ignored them, and that’s how he managed to break a world record while free-falling from space.

READ MORE: Concorde simulator shows you exactly what it’d be like to fly Concorde

Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian daredevil and skydiver, wanted to set a unique world record no one had even even thought of.

On October 14, 2012, Baumgartner jumped from an aircraft that was hovering at a whopping 38,969.3 meters (127,852) above Earth.

He free-fell for 36,402.6 meters (119,431 feet), parachuting the final 2,566.7 meters – or 8,421 feet.

During his descent, Baumgartner set a world record for the fastest speed ever achieved by a human being outside of a vehicle.

He fell at 1,357.64 km/h – or 843.6 mph, which is faster than the speed of sound.

It’s like in a cartoon, when you see the character fall and only hear him scream after.

Levity aside, this amazing feat took years of preparation.

The whole thing was organized, run and paid for by Red Bull, which left no stones unturned.

The first issue for the Red Bull Stratos mission, this is what they called it, was the aircraft required.

In order to get to space, Baumgartner and his team built a helium balloon (pictured above) the size of 33 soccer pitches – weighing 3,708lbs.

They also had to make a custom suit for him, because the temperature up there is minus 72 degrees, and the pressure is different.

Baumgartner said wearing that suit was like breathing through a pillow and, once the visor was down, all he was hearing was himself breathing.

One of the trickiest parts was the total absence of protocol.

Because this is not exactly the sort of thing for which we have a track record of failures or successes.

Baumgartner said things got easier with every minute.

As he approached Earth’s atmosphere, flying at the speed of sound, the air became thicker and so, as an experienced skydiver, he was able to take control.

Speaking about the experience, Felix Baumgartner said going up “makes you understand how small you are”.

Amazingly, his mind-blowing record was broken about 10 years later by an American computer scientist called Alan Eustace.

Mankind hasn’t been able to reach the speed of sound since the demise of the Concorde over 20 years ago.

And even though we are indeed working on a new supersonic aircraft, it’s remarkable that we could ‘travel’ supersonic again with our body rather than with a new Concorde replacement.

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