After more than two years of training and relentless delays, it seemed that Felix Baumgartner would never attempt the daredevil stunt: a free fall from 24 miles above Earth. As part of the Red Bull Stratos project, Baumgartner, an accomplished skydiver and BASE jumper of Austrian descent, was trained extensively to meet the scientific and physical risks of the dive. But it appeared that his greatest enemy was a strong breeze whipping through the New Mexico desert that would serve as his launching and landing pad. Yet on a quiet Sunday in October, the winds slowed and Baumgartner was cleared for launch, carried up to the stratosphere by a balloon. He was outfitted with a pressurized space suit to compensate for the dearth of oxygen, and inspiration and humility flowed forth as he teetered on the ledge of the capsule two dozen miles above the hard terrain. “Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are,” he said prior to the jump. And down he went, reaching a maximum speed of 834 m.p.h. and crushing the sound barrier.
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