As he stood perched on a ledge 39 kilometres above the Earth, the 43-year-old Austrian was about to dive into the abyss – and the world’s record books.
With one simple leap he was soon to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. Early estimations suggest he pierced the Earth’s atmosphere at 1,342.8 kilometres an hour.
There was alarm at mission control when Baumgartner was seen turning over and over and seemed to be in trouble.
But he managed to right himself – and there was relief when, after four minutes and 20 seconds of freefall, his parachute opened.
From then on it was plain sailing over the New Mexico landscape.
Just over nine minutes after jumping out of his capsule, the adventurer landed smoothly.
Baumgartner’s feat awaits official confirmation, but he is thought to have broken three world records: the highest altitude skydive, the highest freefall, and the fastest skydive fall.
Within minutes he was greeted ecstatically by his parents and a delighted girlfriend.