The Man Who Fell To Earth

How does it feel to jump from 21,800 metres? Ask Felix Baumgartner.

Two years or so ago, we featured Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team's attempts to jump from the edge of space and break the record for the highest ever freefall. All looked ready to go until the project hit a legal snag when someone claimed it was their idea.

The good news is that the hold-up has since been resolved and, this week the first successful test jump went ahead successfully from 21,800 metres.

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Baumgartner ascended in a capsule attached to a giant helium balloon above the so-called Armstrong Line, the point where liquids begin to vaporise and temperatures plunge to -75F, before plunging back towards earth at a speed of nearly 600 km/h.

As the team's first real-life test, it was an experience even the experienced Baumgartner struggled to get his head round.

"I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of 50,000 feet," he said.

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The 42 year-old Austrian said later the most difficult part was the extreme cold: "I could hardly move my hands. We're going to have to do some work on that aspect."

An astonishing 1 hour and 40 minutes later, he landed safely in the New Mexico desert.

"This test serves as the perfect motivation for the team for the next step," said Baumgartner. There will now be one more test before the attempted record attempt at 37km in the autumn.

www.redbullstratos.com