ROSWELL, N.M. (AP)—Felix Baumgartner stood alone at the edge of space, poised in the open doorway of a capsule suspended above Earth and wondering if he would make it back alive. Twenty four miles below him, millions of people were right there with him, watching on the Internet and marveling at the wonder of the moment.
A second later, he stepped off the capsule and barreled toward the New Mexico desert as a tiny white speck against a darkly-tinted sky. Millions watched him breathlessly as he shattered the sound barrier and then landed safely about nine minutes later, becoming the world's first supersonic skydiver.
"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 the jump. "The only thing you want is to come back alive."
It was part scientific wonder, part daredevil reality show, with the live-streamed event instantly capturing the world's attention on a sleepy Sunday at the same time seven NFL football games were being played. It proved, once again, the power of the Internet in a world where news travels as fast as Twitter.
Baumgartner, a 43-year-old Austrian, hit Mach 1.24, or 833.9 mph, according to preliminary data, and became the first person to reach supersonic speed without traveling in a jet or a spacecraft. The capsule he jumped from had reached an altitude of 128,100 feet above Earth, carried by a 55-story ultra-thin helium balloon.
Landing on his feet in the desert, the man known as "Fearless Felix" lifted his arms in victory to the cheers of jubilant friends and spectators who closely followed at a command center. Among them was his mother, Eva Baumgartner, who was overcome with emotion, crying.
"Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are," an exuberant Baumgartner told reporters outside mission control after the jump.