On Sunday morning, the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s historic supersonic flight in the Bell X-1, Austrian base jumper Felix Baumgartner became the first person to ever go faster than the speed of sound without the benefit of a craft.
The record came after Baumgartner leapt from an altitude of 128,000 feet from the gondola of a balloon over the New Mexico desert, freefalling for more than four minutes before deploying his chute at 5,000 feet.
During the event, televised and watched by millions on the internet, record-holding parachute jumper Joe Kittinger was the voice of mission control in Baumgartner’s helmet, guiding the 43-year-old former military parachutist through the long pre-jump checklist and talking with him through the entire jump.
Baumgartner at first tumbled for some time the before gaining control and diving headfirst. The freefall lasted for four minutes and 20 seconds and reached a top speed of Mach 1.24. Baumgartner has, awaiting official confirmation, broken the records for highest balloon flight, fastest human without a craft* and the highest freefall. Kittinger’s record, established in 1960 for the longest freefall, stands.