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Baumgartner's record breaking skydive

RAW VIDEO: Amazing vision captured by Felix Baumgartner's helmet camera, of his record-breaking jump from inside the stratosphere.

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Felix Baumgartner stood poised in the open hatch of a capsule suspended above Earth, wondering if he would make it back alive. Thirty-eight kilometres below him, millions of people were watching on the internet and marvelling at the moment.

A second later, he stepped off and barrelled towards a US desert as a white speck against a dark sky. The Austrian-born Baumgartner shattered the sound barrier and landed safely about nine minutes later, becoming the world's first supersonic skydiver.

World-renowned ... Felix Baumgartner celebrates after touching down safely.

World-renowned ... Felix Baumgartner celebrates after touching down safely. Photo: AP

"When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore, you do not think about gaining scientific data," Baumgartner said after Sunday's jump. "The only thing you want is to come back alive."

The jump was part scientific wonder, part reality show, with the live-streamed event capturing the world's attention on a sleepy Sunday. It proved, once again, the power of the internet in a world where news travels as fast as Twitter.

The event happened without a network broadcast in the United States, though organisers said more than 40 television stations in 50 countries - including cable's Discovery Channel in the US - carried the live feed. Instead, people flocked online, with more than eight million simultaneous views of a YouTube live stream at its peak, YouTube officials said.

Leap of faith ... Felix Baumgartner.

Leap of faith ... Felix Baumgartner. Photo: Reuters

More than 130 digital outlets carried the feed, organisers said.

The privately funded feat came during a lull in human space exploration. As the jump unfolded, the US space shuttle Endeavour crept towards a Los Angeles museum, where it will spend its retirement on display.

The 43-year-old Baumgartner hit Mach 1.24, or 1341.97km/h, according to preliminary data, and became the first person to go faster than the speed of sound without travelling in a jet or a spacecraft. The capsule he jumped from reached an altitude of 39,044 metres, carried by a 55-storey, ultra-thin helium balloon.

Job done ... Felix Baumgartner celebrates afterlanding in the desert.

Job done ... Felix Baumgartner celebrates afterlanding in the desert. Photo: AFP

Landing on his feet in the desert, the man known as "Fearless Felix" lifted his arms in victory to the cheers of friends and spectators. His mother, Eva Baumgartner, cried.

"Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are," an exuberant Baumgartner told reporters.

About half of Baumgartner's descent was a freefall of 36,529m, according to Brian Utley, a jump observer from the FAI, an international group that works to determine and maintain the integrity of aviation records.

During the first part of Baumgartner's freefall, he spun uncontrollably. He said he felt pressure building in his head but did not feel as though he was close to passing out.

"When I was spinning first 10, 20 seconds, I never thought I was going to lose my life, but I was disappointed because I'm going to lose my record. I put seven years of my life into this," he said.

He added: "In that situation, when you spin around, it's like hell and you don't know if you can get out of that spin or not. Of course it was terrifying. I was fighting all the way down because I knew that there must be a moment where I can handle it."

Baumgartner said travelling faster than sound is "hard to describe because you don't feel it". The pressurised suit prevented him from feeling the rushing air or even the loud noise he made when breaking the sound barrier.

With no reference points, "you don't know how fast you travel," he said.

Baumgartner's accomplishment came on the 65th anniversary of the day US test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to officially break the sound barrier in a jet. Yeager commemorated that feat on Sunday, flying in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 9144m above California's Mojave Desert.

Baumgartner's team included Joe Kittinger, who first tried to break the sound barrier from 31km up in 1960, reaching speeds of 988km/h. With Kittinger inside mission control, the two men could be heard going over technical details during the ascension.

"Our guardian angel will take care of you," Kittinger radioed to Baumgartner.

On Twitter, half the worldwide trending topics had something to do with the jump.

This attempt marked the end of a long road for Baumgartner, a record-setting high-altitude jumper. He has said this was his final jump.

The sponsor, beverage maker Red Bull, has never said how much the complex project cost.

Baumgartner failed to break Kittinger's record for the longest free fall, at 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Baumgartner's freefall was timed at 4 minutes and 20 seconds.

Baumgartner has said he plans to settle down with his girlfriend and fly helicopters on mountain rescue and firefighting missions in the US and Austria.

Before that, though, he said: "I'll go back to LA to chill out for a few days."

The numbers behind three world records

155: The number of minutes it took to rise to a height of more than 39 kilometres;
9: The number of minutes it took for him to fall to earth
315: His speed in metres per second at his fastest while free-falling
55: Number of storeys high the balloon was at its tallest point
20: Number of seconds delay on the live feed in case of an accident

AP