Skydiver Felix Baumgartner Leaps 13 Miles From Edge of Space at 354Mph [Video]

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner is on his way to setting a world record for the highest free-fall jump.

Felix Baumgartner has jumped 2,500 times from planes and helicopters, as well as some of the highest landmarks and skyscrapers on the planet – starting from the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and to the 101-story Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

This summer, the skydiver intends to hurtle toward Earth at fantastic speed from a record 23 miles up, breaking the sound barrier with only his body, writes The Huffington Post.

“I like to challenge myself,” Baumgartner, 42, explained, “and this is the ultimate skydive. I think there’s nothing bigger than that.”

The adventurer made it more than halfway there during a critical dress rehearsal Thursday, ascending from the New Mexico desert in a helium balloon and jumping from more than 13 miles up.

He is the third person who leaped from such an altitude and free fall to a safe landing – and the first one to do so in 50 years. The record is belonged to the Air Force test pilot Joe Kittinger who jumped from 102,800 feet – 19.5 miles – in 1960.

Now 83, Kittinger lives in Florida and has been working with Baumgartner for three years. what is more, he took part in Thursday’s test. Kittinger is amazed no one has broken his free-falling record, after so many decades.

“In the 52 years since I did it, there have been a lot of improvements in pressure suits, in communications and life-support systems. But the only thing that really has not changed is how hostile it is at that altitude,” Kittinger told reporters. “It’s almost a complete vacuum.”

“I’m now a member of a pretty small club,” Baumgartner said. He tested the same capsule and full-pressure which is needed because there’s virtually no atmosphere at such heights.

Engineers working on astronaut escape systems for future spacecraft have their eyes on Baumgartner, former military parachutist, extreme athlete who is known as “Fearless Felix.”

Thursday’s test run demonstrated the boost Baumgartner was hoping for. “That was the momentum we needed for the whole team. Now we are ready for the 90,000 jump,” Baumgartner said, speaking of the next trial run. “I could not really feel my hands in free fall as it was so cold. We have to work on this,” he continued.

On Thursday morning the man jumped at 71,581 feet – 13.6 miles – and landed eight minutes and eight seconds later, having reached speeds of up to 364.4 mph and being in free fall for three minutes and 43 seconds, before pulling his parachute cords, his spokesperson said.

In his next trial run, he intends to reach 120,000 feet, or 22.8 miles. “Keep in mind that at 120,000 feet … there is no atmosphere to sustain human life,” said Dustin Gohmert, manager of NASA’s crew survival engineering office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“To the body, it’s no different than being in deep space, save from possibly more radiation shielding from the little atmosphere you have. You need the full protection of the pressure suit.”

Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon who heads Baumgartner’s medical team, said that the chance of survival as “very high.”

“Sure, I fear” for Baumgartner’s life, said Clark, whose astronaut wife, Laurel, died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003. “I mean, this is high-risk stuff.”

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