(Reuters) - An Austrian daredevil jumped from a balloon flying at an altitude more than 18 miles above Earth on Wednesday, falling at speeds topping 500 miles per hour in a training run for his attempt to make the world's highest skydive.
Felix Baumgartner landed safely in a desert near Roswell, New Mexico after leaping from an estimated 96,940 feet wearing a pressurized space suit equipped with an oxygen supply.
The test parachute jump was the second for Baumgartner, who is on a quest to complete a record-breaking skydive from 120,000 feet in the coming weeks. He also hopes to become the first man to break the speed of sound at 700 mph in a free fall.
"Only one more step to go," Baumgartner said in a statement.
The current record for the highest altitude skydive is 102,800 feet. It was set 52 years ago by U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger, who is serving as an adviser to Baumgartner.
A 43-year-old former member of the Austrian military, Baumgartner has jumped from Malaysia's Petronas Towers and Taiwan's Taipei 101, two of the world's tallest buildings.
A helium-filled balloon lifted Baumgartner into the sky on Wednesday carrying him in a pressurized capsule.
He executed a free fall of 3 minutes and 48 seconds, reaching speeds of 536 mph, according to Red Bull Stratos, a project using the jumps to gather medical and scientific research data.
In the next jump, the size of the balloon that will carry Baumgartner will rise as tall as a skyscraper.
(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by Jackie Frank)