“Fearless Felix” Goes Supersonic
The sky proves not the limit for Felix Baumgartner, who became the first ever skydiver to break the speed of sound in his daring feat of jumping from the edge of space.
The 43-year-old from Austria, known as “Fearless Felix,” stunned the world by falling 38.6 km from Earth’s stratosphere before landing on his feet in the American state of New Mexico. Figures indicate that the man broke a total of three established world records, including the highest altitude skydive, longest free fall without a parachute (36,529 m) and fastest fall achieved during a skydive (1,342 km/h).
No one had ever fallen to Earth quite like that. Baumgartner’s climb to the stratosphere had taken two and a half hours. The daredevil (胆大的人), in a capsule and wearing a pressurized suit and helmet, reached the height in a 55-story helium balloon (氦气球). He had spent five years planning the jump with the help of more than 300 people, including former U.S. pilot Joe Kittinger, who set the previous highest altitude jump record in 1960.
“You become so humble,” Baumgartner said of that moment right before he jumped out of the capsule. “You do not think about breaking records anymore. The only thing you want is, you want to come back alive.”
He had good reasons to think that. In fact, he almost had to call it off on the way up. His visor (头盔上的挡板) became foggy after a heater in his helmet stopped working. And the supersonic speed, among other things, posed a risk. During the free fall, Baumgartner was plummeting so fast that he was barely a spot on the infrared camera tracking him. For 35 seconds of the fall, he was spinning out of control—something his team feared could cause him to lose consciousness—before regaining control.
Baumgartner, who described the jump as “swimming without touching the water,” is actually no stranger to skydiving feats. In 1999, he claimed the world record for the highest parachute jump from a building when he jumped from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2003, he skydived across the English Channel.