After ascending 128,100 feet above the earth in a helium balloon on Oct. 14, Felix Baumgartner, 43, stepped off the edge and plummeted at a top speed of 833.9 miles per hour. After just over nine minutes, the former Austrian paratrooper landed in the New Mexico desert, having become the first man to break the speed of sound in a freefall.
Now, Baumgartner is hanging up his parachute.
“I am officially retired from the daredevil business,'' he told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Monday. "I did it all. I had enough. It’s time to move on.”
With millions of people around the world watching live on television and online, Baumgartner went for it, and went into a violent spin early in the jump. He regained control, to the relief of his team. He had about 40 seconds to stop the spinning, which was captured on video from a camera in his suit. That footage will be part of an upcoming National Geographic special.
“It’s kind of interesting because it represents exactly what I thought was going to happen because I’ve been told that I’m going to spin and that there’s no way to not spin,’’ he said.
Baumgartner's main challenge was to avoid passing out during his freefall, which lasted 4:20.
“When you spin so violent, what we call the rapid onset, all your blood goes into your brain and there’s a lot of pressure,’’ Baumgartner said. “I had to maintain consciousness because I needed to stop this spin, and I did. I had to use all of my skydiving skills to perform well in those four minutes and twenty seconds.’’
There was no way to simulate his jump from 24 miles above the planet in advance, so Baumgartner faced a simple choice.
"The problem is you have to find a solution for how to stop the spin because you cannot practice for supersonic speed,'' he said. "You either go for it or you don’t.’’
While standing on the edge of the balloon platform, Baumgartner said he never hesitated.
“We have been practicing for this for five years,’’ he said. “In my mind, I did that jump many times. I was ready to go.
“I had an incredible view when I was standing on top of the world, but at the same time you realize everything around is hostile. I thought, ‘I had the privilege to stand here and nobody else was there before.’ When you step off, you’re on the way.’’
With millions watching, Baumgartner announced, “I’m coming home now,’’ before jumping into the record books.
Monday, he admitted it was not all fun and games.
"Did you enjoy it?" Guthrie asked.
"Honestly, no," he said. "This is hard work. Later on, when my parachute opened, this was the first moment where I enjoyed it a lot because I knew it was over and I’m alive.’’
“Space Dive" premieres Sunday, November 11 on the National Geographic Channel.
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