He made that record-breaking jump from space, ending with a perfect landing.
But the jump began with Baumgartner standing alone with his thoughts, 24 miles above Roswell, N.M.
"You become so humble," Baumgartner said of that moment. "You do not think about breaking records anymore. The only thing you want is, you want to come back alive."
No one had ever fallen to Earth quite like that. His climb to Earth's stratosphere had taken two and a half hours. Baumgartner, inside a pressurized suit and capsule, was hoisted heavenward by a 55-story helium balloon.
The 43-year-old skydiver almost had to call it off on the way up. His visor fogged over after a heater in his helmet quit.
"This is very serious, Joe," Baumgartner had said. "I do not think I have face heating."
"Joe" was Joe Kittinger in Mission Control. In 1960, Kittinger leaped from 102,000 feet, a record that stood for 52 years until he helped train Baumgartner to break it.
Baumgartner, foggy visor or not, was jumping from 128,000 feet. But almost instantly, he courted catastrophe. His body began to flat-spin, rotating wildly like a top. "I was fighting all the way down to regain control because I wanted to break the speed of sound," Baumgartner said.
He did regain control. And within the jump's first 30 seconds, he became the first human in free fall to break Mach 1.
One giant leap for a skydiver
Kittinger said, "I'd like to give a special one-fingered salute to all the folks who said he was going to come apart when he went supersonic."
Baumgartner spent four minutes and 20 seconds in free fall, just shy of Kittinger's record, before opening his chute at 5,000 feet and gliding to Earth, about 40 miles from where he launched.
It was the end of five years of training for the highest, fastest free fall ever.
"I never anticipated it would be so tough," Baumgartner said. "And sometimes you have to go really high to understand how small you are."
NASA wants to learn more about Baumgartner's suit and experience. As for Baumgartner, he says he plans to end his high-altitude dives and find employment as a rescue helicopter pilot.