The former soldier hurtled through the sky at up to more than 830 mph, breaking the sound barrier in a tumbling, gut-churning four-minute free fall before popping his parachute and making a running landing in the New Mexico desert. Then he fell to his knees and pumped his fists. "Goosebumps ... Incredible!" one Twitter user posted shortly after the jump.
YouTube carried the jump live. At least 8 million people watched live, YouTube said. While the jump was spectacle enough on its own, it also could have important implications for spaceflight. By most accounts, all the hard work paid off.
According to preliminary findings cited by Brian Utley, an official observer monitoring the mission, the 43-year-old Baumgartner flew higher than anyone ever in a helium balloon and broke the record for the highest jump. Still, even Baumgartner seemed taken aback when Utley detailed how fast he had fallen at one point -- 833.9 mph, or Mach 1.24, smashing his goal to break the sound barrier.
"I was fighting all the way down to regain control because I wanted to break the speed of sound," said Baumgartner. "And then I hit it." "Guardian angels will take care of you," said Mission Control just before he jumped. "The whole world is watching now," Baumgartner responded. He saluted and jumped.