“Fearless” Felix Baumgartner developed a reputation for himself long before millions of people tuned into the Red Bull Stratos live stream to watch him skydive from outer space. The 43-year-old daredevil not only survived his 23-mile free fall jump from space Sunday but broke the speed of sound while wearing nothing but a helmet and space suit.
Baumgartner was already world-famous for his base jumping when he parachuted from the 52nd floor of Mexico’s Torre Mayor skyscraper. The building, which sits in the heart of Mexico City, is the tallest in Latin America at 740 feet and posed a stern challenger for the already-accomplished jumper, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Mexico City’s geographic location makes it especially dangerous in terms of controlling velocity when falling.
“I feel very satisfied; it was a complicated jump because I had to manipulate my parachute a lot due to the air conditions from the buildings being around,” Baumgartner said at the time. “Without any doubt it was a very different jump from those I have made before, with a big grade of difficulty.”
In 2003, the Austrian Baumgartner became the first man to skydive across the English Channel. He leapt out of a plane and flew high above the earth wearing only an aerodynamic jumpsuit and a 6-foot carbon fin on his back. The BBC reported that Baumgartner also had an oxygen tank and a parachute to facilitate his landing.
His quotes after that jump described a feeling most people will only dream of having.
“It was total freedom. If you step out of the airplane at this altitude, it's perfect because you see the sun rise right over there. It's the beginning of the day,” he said. “You’re totally alone, there’s just you, your equipment, your wing – and your skills. I like it.”
Along with jumping from the hand of the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio and other stunts, Baumgartner might have been at his most impressive – until Sunday – when he successfully jumped from the Taipei 101 building in Taipei, Taiwan. At the time the building was one of the tallest in the world and the jump was deemed illegal by the authorities, making it a secret mission. James Bond would have been jealous, though, as Baumgartner fell the entire 509 meters in a span of five seconds.