The former military parachutist rose in a purpose-built capsule beneath a giant helium balloon to a height of more than 128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airliner.
After a salute to the millions watching around the world, Baumgartner jumped from the capsule and plummeted toward earth, reaching a speed of 706mph, faster than the speed of sound, according to his spokesman.
His remarkable feat came exactly 65 years to the day after Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier in an aeroplane, and it was one of three world records Baumgartner set with his jump. He also smashed the records for the highest manned balloon flight and the highest skydive.
As he was instructed to cut his oxygen supply and release his safety harness, mission control in Roswell, New Mexico, told Baumgartner that a “guardian angel was with him”.
He addressed the world with a short speech ahead of his leap. The poor sound quality muffled his words, although he appeared to say: “Hello everyone … The whole world is watching now … I wish you could see what I can see … Sometimes you have to be really high up to realise how small you are.”
He then added: “I’m going over” before jumping.
Infrared cameras captured him as he initially tumbled in the air before settling into a steady head-first descent.
Baumgartner’s family and friends, including his parents, Ava and Felix, and girlfriend, Nicole Oetl, who had traveled to New Mexico watch, cheered and celebrated as it became clear he was safe.
As he fell to Earth, Baumgartner complained that his visor was steaming up before he pulled his parachute cord. After two or three minutes he appeared against the cloudless blue sky before steering himself to safety, landing on a patch of New Mexico scrubland, just nine minutes after jumping.
After reaching such heights, Baumgartner’s next ambition is to take to the sky once again. Although this time his ceiling will be much lower. He hopes to move to the country with his girlfriend, dividing his time between the US and Austria, where he plans to fly helicopters, performing mountain rescues and firefighting.
“After this, I’m going to retire,” he said. “Because I’ve been successfully doing things for the last 25 years and I’m still alive.”