Professional daredevil Felix Baumgartner made crazy person history this afternoon when he leapt out of a 750-foot helium balloon (the largest ever made for a manned flight) 24 miles above Earth. It took the 43-year-old former Austrian paratrooper 2 hours 21 minutes to reach his starting point beyond the sky above the New Mexico desert (the journey included traveling 4,000 feet through a “dead zone,” from which it would have been impossible to jump to safety if something went wrong.) At several points, Baumgartner alerted people on the ground to problems with his visor, which apparently fogged up due to a malfunctioning heating system, but the stunt — a Red Bull- sponsored project five years in the making and overseen by “a NASA-style mission control operation” of 300 people — went smoothly otherwise.
Baumgartner’s plan was to both make the highest jump in history and to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. He also set a record for flying higher in a balloon than anyone else in history. His top speed during the free-fall portion of the event — which went on for a horrifying-sounding 123,000 feet and lasted for five minutes — was 729 miles-per-hour. At 5,000 feet, Baumgartner deployed his parachute and floated pleasantly toward the ground, where he landed safely on his feet.