Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year-old former military parachutist, floated for two hours in a purpose-built capsule towed by an enormous helium balloon before leaping into the record books from 128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airline.
As the launch began, Mr Kittinger told Mr Baumgartner: “You’re doing great, Felix. Doing great. Everything looks green and you are on your way to space.”
Mr Baumgartner’s parents were in Roswell, New Mexico for the launch, the first time they had travelled outside of Europe. His mother could be seen weeping as her son launched into space.
Baumgartner said he wasn’t even aware of breaking the sound barrier.
“I didn’t feel the sonic boom, I think it happens behind you,” he said.
He broke the current freefall record of 19.5 miles held by Joe Kittinger. Mr Kittinger, who set his record in 1960, was the only person allowed to communicate with Mr Baumgartner while he was inside the capsule which carried him into space.
The Austrian took more than two hours to get up to the jump altitude. Baumgartner had already broken one record before he even leapt: the previous highest altitude for a manned balloon flight was 113,740 feet, set in 1961.
He had been due to jump from 120,000 feet, but the balloon went higher than expected.
“Thank goodness, I managed to stop – it was very difficult. It was much more difficult than many of us expected”, he said.