CNN

After six years of preparation, struggle and sacrifice, Felix Baumgartner found himself literally at the end of the world.

“I’m standing there on top of the world outside a capsule in space and in the stratosphere. I looked around, the sky above me was completely black,” Baumgartner told CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell as he reflected on his freefall Red Bull Stratos in October 2012 as he watched the Earth from a vantage point of 127,852 feet (approximately 24 miles / 39 kilometers). ).

“I was really trying to inhale that moment,” Baumgartner added.

And with more than eight million people watching on YouTube, the Austrian Austrian daredevil said these famous words: “Sometimes you have to go up to understand how small you are. I’m coming home now.

It was a project that was originally supposed to take 24 months from start to finish, but ended up taking several years longer.

“We thought, we’re going to build the capsule, build the pressure suit, train for a while, and then we’ll go up to the stratosphere and come back to Earth at supersonic speed,” says Baumgartner.

“Sometimes we would walk into a meeting with three issues, then leave that meeting eight hours later with five more…and no resolution for the previous issues.”

To get Baumgartner into the stratosphere, his team had to build a helium balloon the size of 33 football fields – weighing 3,708 pounds. It took up to 20 people to move without damaging the material of the balloon which was 10 times thinner than a sandwich bag.

But perhaps the biggest threat to the project was the most unforeseen – Baumgartner’s mental toughness.

The suit had to be both pressurized and capable of withstanding temperatures of minus 72° Celsius (minus 97.6° Farenheit).

“It’s very uncomfortable,” says Baumgartner. “You have a total lack of mobility. It always feels like breathing through a pillow. You are completely separated from the outside world. So once the visor is down, all you can hear is your own breathing.

The prospect of lasting up to eight hours in the pressure suit would take several months for Baumgartner – and the help of psychiatrists and sports psychologists – to come to terms with it.

“I had to look at the costume as if it was my friend, not my enemy,” adds Baumgartner.

The Austrian effectively jumped from the balloon into space, where normal skydiving rules do not apply.

He spent the next nine minutes falling through the sky, half of it in full free fall.

“Once on my way, I slowly started spinning in one direction, then I started spinning in the opposite direction, then I really started spinning faster and faster,” Baumgartner explained.

Baumgartner had not been able to practice free-falling in space, so the spinning sensation was extremely disconcerting.

“It was a very alarming moment because there is no protocol,” the 53-year-old said as he crashed at a speed of 843.6 mph (1357.64 km/h)-1, 25 times that of sound. “It’s like sailing without wind, which means your skills don’t work.”

He finally crossed the Armstrong line, where the air is getting thicker, and Baumgartner was able to stabilize himself and began to “enjoy my parachute jump”.

Baumgartner's record for the highest parachute jump had since been broken.  The current recorder is Alan Eustace.

“Once I opened my parachute and opened my visor, it was the first moment after seven hours that I breathed the outside air. I was reconnected to the outside world, and it was a very happy moment.

“The only thing I didn’t know when I landed is: did I break the speed of sound? Because once you’re in free fall, you know you’re fast, but you have absolutely no indication of your actual speed.

Baumgartner endured an agonizing 10-minute wait – longer than when he was actually in the air – before receiving confirmation that he had reached a top speed of 844mph, more than 75mph faster than the speed of the his.

“And in that moment, I was really happy and satisfied because for me to break the speed of sound as a human, the first human in history, that was definitely something.”

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