Austrian Felix Baumgartner has broken the record for the highest ever skydive
Austrian Felix Baumgartner has broken the record for the highest ever skydive by jumping out of a balloon 128,000ft (24 miles, 39km) above New Mexico.
The 43-year-old was hoping also to break the sound barrier during his descent - although that mark awaits confirmation, reports the BBC.
Video cameras relayed the moment Baumgartner stepped from his balloon capsule to begin his fall to Earth.
It took just under 10 minutes for him to reach the desert surface below.
Only the last few thousand feet were negotiated by parachute. Once down, he fell to his knees and raised his fists in triumph. Helicopter recovery teams were on hand moments later.
None of the new marks set by Baumgartner can be classed as "official" until endorsed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI).
Eva Baumgartner Eva Baumgartner watches her son climb into the sky
Its representative was the first to greet the skydiver on the ground. GPS data recorded on to a microcard in the Austrian's chest pack will form the basis for any height and speed claims that are made.
Unofficially, the Austrian jumped from 128,097ft (24.2 miles; 39km). He fell for four minutes and 19 seconds, reaching a speed of 706mph (1,137km/h). These figures will undoubtedly change slightly once the chest pack information has been properly assessed.
There was concern early in the dive that he was in trouble. Baumgartner was supposed to get himself into a delta position - head down, arms back - as soon as possible after leaving his capsule. But the video showed him tumbling over and over.
Eventually, however, he was able to use his great experience, from more than 2,500 career skydives, to correct his fall and get into a stable configuration.
Even before this drama, it was thought the mission might have to be aborted. As he went through last-minute checks inside the capsule, it was found that a heater for his visor was not working. This meant the visor fogged up as he exhaled.
"This is very serious, Joe," he told retired US Air Force Col Joe Kittinger, whose records he was attempting to break, and who was acting as his radio link in mission control at Roswell airport.
Baumgartner's efforts have finally toppled records that have stood for more than 50 years.
Felix Baumgartner floats to Earth after his highest-ever jump The Austrian has been discussing his attempt since 2005
The previous highest, farthest, and longest freefall was made by Col Kittinger, who leapt from a helium envelope in 1960. His altitude was 102,800ft (31.3km). (His mark for the longest freefall remains intact; he fell for more that four and a half minutes before deploying his chute.)
Col Kittinger, now an octogenarian, has been an integral part of Baumgartner's team, and has provided the Austrian with advice and encouragement whenever he has doubted his ability to complete such a daring venture.