RED BULL STRATOS, MISSION TO THE EDGE OF SPACE - ROSWELL / NEW MEXICO

Historical event as huge as the Red Bull Stratos Mission To The Edge Of Space is something that I will surely remember for the rest of my life. I am very proud that I participated in writing the new chapter of human history through my photographs. With this successful mission Felix Baumgartner, famous BASE jumper from Austria, has set several new world records and will remain the top extreme sports athlete for a long time.

Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull Stratos - Photo by Predrag Vuckovic

Austria's Felix Baumgartner earned his place in the history books after overcoming concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardized the mission. Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km/h jumping from the stratosphere, which when certified will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set several other records* while delivering valuable data for future space exploration.

Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull Stratos - Photo by Predrag Vuckovic

ROSWELL, New Mexico - After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed Sunday morning a record breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger.
Baumgartner landed safely with his parachute in the desert of New Mexico after jumping out of his space capsule at 39,045 meters and plunging back towards earth, hitting a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20 minute long freefall. Countless millions of people around the world watched his ascent and jump live on television broadcasts and live stream on the Internet. At one point during his freefall Baumgartner appeared to spin rapidly, but he quickly re-gained control and moments later opened his parachute as members of the ground crew cheered and viewers around the world heaved a sigh of relief.

Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull Stratos - Photo by Predrag Vuckovic

"It was an incredible up and down today, just like it's been with the whole project," a relieved Baumgartner said. "First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I'd just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I'd lose consciousness. I didn't feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We'll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be."
Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission that is designed to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.
Baumgartner had endured several weather-related delays before finally lifting off under bright blue skies and calm winds on Sunday morning. The Red Bull Stratos crew watching from Mission Control broke out into spontaneous applause when the balloon lifted off.

Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull Stratos - Photo by Predrag Vuckovic

WHO IS FELIX BAUMGARTNER?

Austrian extreme sportsman Felix Baumgartner has completed numerous spectacular BASE jumps from iconic locations such as the Christ statue in Rio, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the towering Taipei 101 skyscraper. He is also the first human being ever to cross the English Channel in freefall using a carbon wing. On the 8 October the 43-year-old will embark on his most daring adventure yet – Red Bull Stratos.
Why did you want to pursue this mission?
Felix Baumgartner: I love a challenge, and trying to become the first person to break the speed of sound in freefall is a challenge like no other. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what motivates us. Red Bull Stratos is an opportunity to gather information that could contribute to the development of life-saving measures for astronauts and pilots – and maybe for the space tourists of tomorrow. Proving that a human can break the speed of sound in the stratosphere and return to earth would be a step toward creating near-space bailout procedures that currently don’t exist.

Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull Stratos - Photo by Predrag Vuckovic

Does this jump push the limits of the human body?

Baumgartner: One of the unknowns is how a human body will react approaching supersonic speeds. The effects of the transition to supersonic velocity and back again are not known. This is just one of the things we hope to learn. Maybe one day it will be possible to bring astronauts home safely from space if their spacecraft malfunctions. It sounds like a sci-fi scenario, but aeronautics is definitely moving in that direction. So data showing how my body responds throughout the mission will be valuable information for researchers.
So as the jump approaches, do you have any apprehensions about this step into the unknown?
Baumgartner: Of course; however, having been involved in extreme endeavors for so long I’ve learned to use my fear to my advantage. Fear has become a friend of mine. It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line. On a mission like this, you need to be mentally fit and have total control over what you do, and I’m preparing very thoroughly. I’ve also got an incredible team around me, and I know they wouldn’t be part of this mission unless they thought it could succeed. I trust their expertise, and their confidence builds my confidence.
Your heart rate will be highest not in the moments directly before you jump, but when you get up from your seat. Baumgartner: I have developed a detailed technical procedure that I need to go through before the jump – 40 individual steps which must be carried out in a certain order. That is the moment when you realise that you are completely dependent on technology – in a place where there really is nobody around to help you. Directly before the jump my heart rate will drop, because that is the time when I am in control of most things going on.
As a skydiver I have completed 2500 jumps, so jumping is my business. Just before I set off I will know that I am heading home.
What is the most important thing when it comes to the jump itself?
Baumgartner: I have to get myself into a stable position before I reach the speed of sound. With all my experience in the air that shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but in order to stabilise my body I need wind resistance. The problem is that for around 30 seconds I will have no air cushion whatsoever, meaning that I won’t be able to control the way my body spins. However, in the tests we have done so far I have always been able to stabilise myself pretty quickly as soon as there was enough air to do so.
The repair work on the capsule has forced some changes to be made to the original schedule. How have you dealt with that?
Baumgartner: Of course it would have been better if the capsule hadn’t been damaged, but we were lucky and the team did an awesome job. For me personally it was important to re-charge my batteries, both physically and mentally. It is always tricky when there are changes to the schedule. But after 25 years in extreme sports I am used to dealing with that sort of thing. The last test was a full success and we are flight ready for Oct. 8th.
Felix Baumgartner's freefall from 120,000 feet / 36,576 meters can be watched live on the day of the jump on www.redbullstratos.com

Predrag Vuckovic, Red Bull Stratos project

STATISTICS:

- Altitude at which Felix Baumgartner stepped off the capsule: 39,045 meters / 128,100 feet
- Fastest speed achieved during freefall: 1,342.8 km/h / 833.9 mph (Mach 1.24)
- Time elapse before reaching speed of sound during freefall: 34 seconds
- Vertical distance of freefall: 36,529 meters / 119,846 feet
- Total time spent in freefall: 4 minutes 22 seconds
- Chute pulled: 5,300ft above the ground
- Total time from the moment he jumped to landing: 9 minutes 9 seconds
- Distance between launch and landing positions: 70.5km / 43.8miles

RECORDS ACHIEVED:

- First human to break the speed of sound in freefall without mechanical intervention
- Freefall from the highest altitude
- Longest vertical distance in freefall
- Highest manned balloon flight

Read my personal story of Red Bull Stratos project.