Fearless Felix jumps at last

Felix Baumgartner, 43, spoke of a descent like “hell” after becoming the world’s first supersonic skydiver this weekend.

On Sunday evening the Austrian transfixed millions of online viewers (over 8 million watched live on YouTube) as he rose to 24 miles above the Earth with the help of a 55 storey high helium balloon.

Felix himself seemed shocked at the public reaction to his stunt, saying afterwards that he had “thought about that moment so many times, but this was bigger than anticipated.” In fact he had dreamed of the moment for years – all he ever wanted as a child was to become a skydiver. As a five year old he drew a picture of himself and a parachute, and his family waiting to greet him on the ground. Today that dream came true.

His jump was a success, breaking records for the greatest altitude in a manned balloon, greatest altitude for a parachute jump and greatest free fall velocity. He even landed in style, on his feet with minimal effort. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though.

The jump was seven years in the making, and at times looked like it might never happen. Just last week the mission was aborted due to bad weather, and in training Felix enlisted the help of sports psychologists to overcome bouts of claustrophobia within his pressurised suit. As he made his way up on Sunday he had to consider aborting the mission because of a visor problem, however made the “right decision” and continued on his journey.

In fact he did not even look down as he prepared to leave the tiny, life preserving capsule. He says he remembers the first front rotation to be a good one, before falling into 35 seconds of uncontrollable spinning. In ordinary sky dives he can feel the air around him and therefore knows how to react, but in his suit he was powerless. 4 minutes and 20 seconds later, though, he opened his parachute, having reached speeds of over 830 miles per hour.

After his perfect landing, Felix sank to his knees in relief, before sharing tearful hugs with his fiancé and mother, who were among the 100 supporters gathered to meet him. He admits to having “tears in his eyes a couple of times” as he headed back to the waiting crowd.

Felix now plans to settle down and become a helicopter rescue pilot, having decided that this jump was his last.

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