"Let me tell you - when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble. You don't think about breaking records anymore, you don't think about gaining scientific data - the only thing that you want is to come back alive," he said afterwards at a media conference.
If his body was not positioned correctly, he could have fallen into a rapid spin, which could render him unconscious and cause brain and cardiovascular damage. Plus, he faced the risk of ebullism, a condition that could cause the liquid in his body to turn to gas and his blood to literally boil.
He says he is motivated in part by scientific endeavour, the desire to see what the human body can achieve. But Baumgartner is also spurred on by the desire to see what no-one else has seen, to be alone at the highest reaches of the skies.
"It's almost overwhelming," he told the BBC of an earlier test jump. "When you're standing there in a pressure suit, the only thing that you hear is yourself breathing, and you can see the curvature of the Earth; you can see the sky's totally black.
By showing that a person can safely return to Earth from that speed and altitude, the "Stratos" mission team hopes to show that astronauts might survive with similar systems if they needed to bail out of spacecraft.
"It's human nature to want to go faster and further," Kittinger noted, but he added he would not have signed on without the promise of getting scientific data. "We're testing the next-generation full-pressure suits."
“I was putting everything out there, and hope for the best and if we left one record for Joe — hey, it's fine,” he said of Kittinger, who was a member of Baumgartner's team at ground control. “We needed Joe Kittinger to help us break his own record and that tells the story of how difficult it was and how smart they were in the '60s. He is 84 years old, and he is still so bright and intelligent and enthusiastic.”
On 16 August 1960, US Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger made history by jumping out of a balloon at an altitude of some 31,333 metres. "I stood up and said a prayer and stepped off," he recalled (see Space diving: The ultimate extreme sport).
Since then, many have tried to break that record but none have succeeded – New Jersey native Nick Piantanida actually died trying in 1966. Now Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner has announced he will make the attempt, with help from Kittinger and sponsorship from the energy drink company Red Bull
On December 12, 2007 he became the first person to jump from the 91st floor observation deck, then went to the 90th floor (about 390 m (1,280 ft)) of the then tallest completed building in the world, Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan.
He was the first person to sky dive onto, then BASE jump from, the Turning Torso building in Malmö, Sweden on August 18, 2006.
He became the first person to BASE jump from the completed Millau Viaduct in France on 27 June 2004.
Baumgartner set the world record for the lowest BASE jump ever, from the hand of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
Felix was named to Vienna's Street of Champions and nominated for a World Sports Award and two categories in the NEA Extreme Sports Awards. A licensed gas balloon pilot, he has earned private helicopter licenses in Austria and the United States, as well as a commercial European helicopter license, and he is an advocate for the nonprofit Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation. In training for Red Bull Stratos, Felix divides his time between Switzerland and the United States, but, he says, "The air is where I am at home."
Baumgartner began skydiving at age 16, and by the 90s, had graduated to base jumping. He has base jumped from the world's tallest building in Taiwan, from the world's tallest bridge in France and from the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Felix, born April 20, 1969, grew up in Salzburg, Austria where he dreamed of skydiving and flying helicopters and was inspired by astronauts on TV. He made his first skydive at age 16. After sharpening his parachute skills as a member of a Special Forces demonstration team for the Austrian military, he supported himself by repairing motorcycles before becoming a skydiving professional.
"It's human nature to want to go faster and further,"