Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner completed his epic jump from above New Mexico yesterday. After achieving the record for the highest manned balloon flight, Baumgartner also broke the record for the highest ever free fall as he jumped out of the balloon at 128,100 feet. It took just under ten minutes for the 43 year old to descend as he became the first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound – reaching an estimated maximum velocity of 833.9 miles per hour*.
In preparation for the jump, Baumgartner consumed a "low-residue, low-fibre" diet so that his food would pass quickly through his body without any build-up of gas, as this might expand and cause him severe internal pain in a low-pressure environment. He also "pre-breathed" oxygen for two hours before his ascent to help reduce the amount of nitrogen in his blood.
Reflecting on the day's achievements Baumgartner said "It was an incredible up and down today, just like it's been with the whole project." The attempt had faced some weather-related delays before finally lifting off under favourable conditions on Sunday morning. The jump itself was not without drama as an issue with the power supply to Baumgartner’s visor meant that his vision was impaired and, after a perfect exit, Baumgartner had to try to stabilise himself from spinning which he described as “really brutal at times”.
One of the jump's key scientific goals was to learn, via a series of monitors on his body, more about what such an experience does to the human body. The physiological exertions Baumgartner experienced during his descent are still being studied by his team.
Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission. The equipment for which included: a capsule acting as a pressurised environment which protected him from sub-zero temperatures on the way up; a full pressure suit and helmet to act as his personal life support system; and a one of a kind parachute system.
The team have previously noted that they plan to share all their finding and breakthroughs in areas of aviation and aerospace with the scientific community around the world as they aim the achieve advancements in medical science and contribute to the understanding of survival in space.
*The data on the records set by the jump are still pending confirmation from the authorised governing bodies.