The brave daredevil Felix Baumgartner set the record he had hoped for when he jumped out of the stratosphere back to earth on October 14. During his approximately four minutes of free fall Baumgartner reached estimated* speeds of 833.9 mph (1,343 km/h) at one point in that time. He hit Mach 1.24, or in other words, he successfully broke the speed of sound. But the record-breaking speed did not come without problems.
During the free fall, Baumgartner started spinning around the time he attained speeds of 700 mph and more. Some people call this the “death spin.” It’s essentially an uncontrolled flat spin (circling around a point of axis at approximately his abdomen) which causes blood to pool at his head and can be fatal.
During a press conference following the event Baumgartner said, “there was a period in time where I really thought I was in trouble because I have a manual push button where I can release a drogue [stabilization] chute which pulls me out of the flat spin. But at the same time I knew that if I push that button, this thing is all over, we’re not going to fly supersonic. And it’s hard, when you fall down at that speed, you have to make that decision, you know? Somehow you have to make that call, ‘do I push that button and stay alive, or do I fight all my way down and break the speed of sound?’ And, and after a couple of seconds, I had that feeling, I get it under control and I did and that’s the reason why we broke the speed of sound today.”
Get as close as you can to Baumgartner’s experience of flat spinning through the following footage recorded from a camera mounted to his chest.
*The data on the records set by the jump are preliminary pending confirmation from the authorized governing bodies.