ROSWELL, N.M. — An Austrian skydiver broke as many as three world records during his supersonic descent from an altitude of 24 miles on Sunday, project sponsors said.
Cheers broke out as Felix Baumgartner, 43, jumped from a skateboard-sized shelf outside the 11-by-8-foot (3.3-by-2.4 meter) fiberglass and acrylic capsule, which was carried as high as 128,000 feet by an enormous balloon.
"We love you, Felix!" the crowd in Roswell screamed as he plunged through the stratosphere.
His body pierced the atmosphere at speeds topping 700 miles per hour, appearing to achieve another of his goals: to become the first skydiver to break the speed of sound, according to the project's website. He sped toward Earth on the 65th anniversary of legendary American pilot Chuck Yeager's flight shattering the sound barrier on Oct. 14, 1947.
"Looks like he probably broke Mach," project commentator Bob Hager said, referring to Mach 1, or the speed of sound, which is more than 690 miles per hour.
In addition to the supersonic free-fall record, Baumgartner broke records for the highest-altitude manned balloon flight and the highest-altitude skydive.
Baumgartner's ascent into the stratosphere took about two and a half hours. The 30 million-cubic-foot (850,000-cubic-meter) plastic balloon is about one-tenth the thickness of a plastic freezer bag, or roughly as thin as a dry cleaner bag.
During the flight, Baumgartner received radio assistance from project adviser Joe Kittinger, the retired Air Force colonel who held the parachute jump record that Baumgartner smashed. That record was set in 1960 when Kittinger jumped from a height of 19 miles.
At one point during Sunday's descent, Baumgartner experienced a terrifying spin but pulled through it without injury. "Felix, we're so proud of you. You did absolutely fabulous. ... I couldn't have done any better myself," Kittinger told him.
Ten minutes after stepping into the air, Baumgartner landed safely on the ground and raised his arms in a victory salute.
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This report includes information from Reuters.
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