Daredevil completes test jump from 21,800 meters
VIENNA, AFP Sunday, March 18, 2012, 12:00 am TWN
VIENNA -- An Austrian daredevil has come closer to his goal of breaking the world free fall record, completing a test skydive from a height of 21,800 meters (71,500 feet) in the United States.
He took just three minutes and 33 seconds to reach the ground.
"I am still stoked and can't find the words to describe what happened," Felix Baumgartner wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday morning of the project dubbed "Red Bull Stratos."
Baumgartner is aiming to become the first person to free fall faster than the speed of sound.
This first test jump was more than halfway to his goal of 37,000 meters planned for later this year.
Wearing a special suit, the skydiver was taken up in a large helium-filled balloon in a capsule from where he made his jump.
The 42-year-old landed in the New Mexico desert, near the town of Roswell, after 3 minutes and 33 seconds of freefall and having attained a speed of 587 kilometers per hour.
"First Test jump was a total success," Baumgartner wrote.
He also hopes to become the first person to break the sound barrier without an aircraft.
Jonathan Clark, the project's medical director, has said the jump would explore the effects of acceleration to supersonic speed on the human body.
The current free fall record is held by former U.S. Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, who jumped from 102,800 feet, or more than 19 miles, in 1960 from the Excelsior III, a gondola lifted by helium balloons.
Kittinger has been hired as a special advisor and "mentor" for the flight by Baumgartner.
Baumgartner's previous free fall ventures have included jumping from the top of the World Financial Center T101 in Taipei and from the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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