The mission ended at 11:17 a.m. PT today when Baumgartner landed. At first, Baumgartner's Red Bull Stratos team said that the unofficial top speed of the freefall was 1,137 kilometers per hour, or 706 miles per hour. Later, they raised that to 1,342.8 km/h, or 834.4 mph.
The team's expectation was that 690 mph would be sufficient to get Baumgartner to Mach 1 -- a somewhat variable standard, depending on elevation, air density, and other factors. But that would handily beat the record for the fastest freefall, which has stood at 614 mph for a half-century.
Baumgartner seems clearly to have set a record for the highest manned balloon flight and the highest freefall, having jumped from at altitude of 128,097 feet. The duration of the freefall, 4 minutes and 19 seconds, was just shy of the record (4:36).
Kittinger, who's serving as an adviser to Baumgartner, knows a little something about this rare kind of skydive. In August 1960, he jumped from 102,800 feet (19.5 miles) and hit a top speed of about 614 mph, at at time when the Pentagon and the still very young NASA were trying to get a handle on how humans would be affected by high-altitude atmospheric flight and space travel.
"When I jumped," Kittinger wrote in Plane & Pilot magazine a couple years ago. "I was thinking simply that it was the beginning of a test. I had done it a hundred times in an altitude chamber and a thousand times in my mind, so I was prepared and confident. But after I jumped, I rolled over and looked up, and there was the balloon just roaring into space. I realized, however, that the balloon wasn't really roaring into space -- I was going down at a fantastic rate! At about 90,000 feet, I reached approximately 614 mph. At that point, my altimeter was unwinding very rapidly, but there was no sense of speed because we determine speed visually when we see something go flashing by, and there were no visual cues."