US & Canada

Google's Alan Eustace beats Baumgartner's skydiving record

Media captionAlan Eustace exceeded the speed of sound, reaching more than 1,300km/h

A senior Google vice president, Alan Eustace, has broken the world altitude record for a parachute jump set in 2012 by Austrian Felix Baumgartner.

Mr Eustace was carried by a large helium balloon from New Mexico to over 40km (25 miles) above the earth.

The 57-year-old leapt out in a specially-designed space suit, reaching speeds of more than 1,300km/h.

He exceeded the speed of sound, setting off a small sonic boom, and set several skydiving records in the process.

The dive was part of a project led by Paragon Space Development Corporation, aimed at the exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet (30,480 metres).

Years of preparation

Mr Eustace successfully jumped from near the top of the stratosphere at an altitude of 135,890 feet at 09:09 local time (16:00 GMT), the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) confirmed on Friday.

The previous record was set by Mr Baumgartner two years ago, after he jumped from a height of nearly 128,000 feet.

Image copyright Paragon Space Development Corporation
Image caption Mr Eustace set off from an abandoned air field in New Mexico early on Friday morning
Image copyright Paragon Space Development Corporation
Image caption He wore a self-contained commercial space suit enabling him to explore the stratosphere
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alan Eustace is Google's senior vice president of knowledge

Mr Eustace also broke the world records for vertical speed reached during freefall with a peak velocity of 1,321km/h (822 mph) and total freefall distance of 123,414 feet - lasting four minutes and 27 seconds.

He set off from a runway in Roswell, New Mexico, at 07:00 connected to a balloon module, which carried him for two hours and seven minutes to his target altitude.

The Google executive - who is also a veteran pilot and parachutist - had been planning this jump for several years, working in secret with a small group of people trained in parachute and balloon technology, says the BBC's David Willis in Los Angeles.

Image copyright Paragon Space Development Corporation
Image caption The Google executive was carried into the stratosphere using balloon technology

But, our correspondent adds, Mr Eustace completed it without the aid of sponsorship, and with considerably less fanfare than the previous record holder, Felix Baumgartner, whose jump from the edge of space was streamed live over the internet two years ago.

"It was amazing," Mr Eustace was quoted by the New York Times as saying.

"It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before."

He told the newspaper that he did not feel or hear the sonic boom as he passed the speed of sound, although it was heard by observers on the ground.

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