An executive from Google has set a new skydiving record by jumping successfully from near the top of the stratosphere - about 135,000 feet, or 41,000 metres high, breaking the 2012 record by Austrian Felix Baumgartner.
The record dive by 57-year-old Alan Eustace, who is a "senior vice president of knowledge" at Google, was conducted as part of a project allowing manned exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet.
You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.
According to a statement from the Paragon Space Development Corporation, Eustace completed the four-hour mission over Roswell, New Mexico, using a space suit and balloon module to carry him to the stratosphere.
Eustace broke the record set by skydiver Baumgartner, who jumped from a height of nearly 128,000 feet or 38,969 metres, also from New Mexico.
Eustace's free-fall lasted about five minutes. He deployed his parachute at about 18,000 feet "and floated gently to the ground", the statement said.
"Within four hours of launch, Alan arrived at the launch site where the team and guests toasted his achievement and safe return."
The New York Times quoted Eustace as saying: "It was amazing. It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before."
The Times said that Eustace was propelled from the module with a small explosive charge, sending him travelling briefly at supersonic speeds and creating a sonic boom heard by observers on the ground.
According to Paragon, the system has many uses for scientific study of the stratosphere.
These include the "development of means for spaceship crew egress, the study of dynamics of bodies at Mach 1, new high altitude aircraft suits, and setting of records for space diving, sailplaning and ballooning."
|Eustace broke the record set by Austrian Felix Baumgartner
Without special equipment, humans cannot live at that altitude, according to Paragon, which says that "besides being unable to breathe, exposure to the vacuum of space will cause fluids in the body to boil."
The space suit is similar to those used for the Apollo missions and on the International Space Station, the company said.
The missions by Eustace and Baumgartner offer hope for rescue and evacuation from troubled spacecraft. The US space shuttle was fitted with a crew evacuation system after the 1986 Challenger disaster.
The private firm World View Experience announced that it had obtained the rights to offer similar skydives for "near space" tourism and research.
For $75,000, adventurers can duplicate the experience inside a "luxury capsule" complete with bar, toilet and internet access.