Born in Salzburg, Austria, on April 20, 1969, daredevil Felix Baumgartner began skydiving as a teenager. He has since made high jumps from landmarks around the world, and has "flown" across the English Channel after leaping from a plane. In 2012, Baumgartner set a world record with a supersonic skydive from a capsule 24 miles high in the stratosphere over Roswell, New Mexico.
Felix Baumgartner was born in Salzburg, Austria, on April 20, 1969, to Eva and Felix Baumgartner. He has one brother, Gerard Baumgartner.
Beginning when he was a child, Baumgartner imagined flying through the sky. He began skydiving at the age of 16, honing his aero-acrobatic abilities during his time in the Austrian military. His hero was Joseph Kittinger, the United States Air Force pilot who set a record in 1960 by jumping from a plane at an altitude of 102,800 feet.
Baumgartner worked as a mechanic and a motocross driver, but his main ambition was to establish himself as a record-breaking skydiver. In 1988, he began performing skydiving exhibitions for the beverage company Red Bull, which became his sponsor.
In the 1990s, Baumgartner added "BASE"—an acronym standing for four platforms that a parachute jumper uses as his starting points: building, antenna, spans (bridges) and earth (cliffs, etc.)—to his repertoire of stunts. In 1999, Baumgartner set a new world record for parachute jumps when he leaped from the landmark Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Later that year, he jumped from the Pirelli skyscraper in Milan, Italy. In 2007, he tackled the Taipei 101 (formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center) in Taipei, China.
In a twist on this jump category, Baumgartner made the world's lowest BASE jump from the arm of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1999.
Baumgartner set his most significant record on October 14, 2012, when he jumped from a small capsule at an altitude of 128,100 feet and plummeted approximately 24 miles downward at a top speed of 833.9 miles per hour (Mach 1.24)—the highest skydive accomplished to date, and the first to break the sound barrier.
With the sponsorship of the Red Bull Stratos project team, Baumgartner spent five years preparing for this effort, including making test jumps from heights of 71,600 feet and 97,100 feet in early 2012. He was coached by his childhood hero, Joseph Kittinger, as well as a number of other experts. On the date of his record-breaking leap, he was monitored by a mission-control team of 300 engineers, scientists and physicians at an airfield in Roswell, New Mexico.
Baumgartner was pulled up to the stratosphere (the second layer of Earth's atmosphere) in a small space capsule carried by a large helium balloon. He leaped from the capsule wearing a pressurized spacesuit and helmet, and was in free-fall for more than four minutes (falling approximately 24 miles). After a total of nine minutes, he touched ground safely near Roswell, becoming the first human to travel faster than the speed of sound without an aircraft or spacecraft.
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