Felix Baumgartner free-falls to Earth faster than speed of sound

The Austrian skydiver fell 24 miles to Earth, reaching a speed of 833 mph

By Prachi Gupta

Published October 15, 2012 4:01PM (EDT)

Yesterday, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner dropped down to Earth from 24 miles, reaching 833 miles per hour. He is the first human to break the sound barrier without the aid of a space shuttle or supersonic jet.

Although the event was not televised, over 8 million people witnessed the heart-stopping 4-minute-20-second free fall live. The AP reports:

The event happened without a network broadcast in the United States, though organizers said more than 40 television stations in 50 countries - including cable's Discovery Channel in the U.S. - carried the live feed. Instead, millions flocked online, drawing more than 8 million simultaneous views to a YouTube live stream at its peak, YouTube officials said.

What does a sound-breaking free fall feel like? "It's like swimming without touching the water, and it's hard because every time it turns you around you have to figure out what to do. So I was sticking my arm out then it became worse," said Baumgartner. "I had a lot of pressure in my head. But I didn't feel like I was passing out. I was still feeling ok, I -- I thought, 'I can handle the situation.' And I did."

Baumgartner, 43, also broke two other records: the highest exit from a platform and the highest free fall without a drogue parachute, according to ABC. He told reporters that he did the jump for science and hopes to inspire others. "Honestly I want to inspire the next generation," he said. "I would love if there was a young guy sitting next to me asking what my advice is, wanting to break my record."

Relive history by watching the entire jump:

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Felix Baumgartner Freefall Sound Barrier Space Speed Of Sound World Record