Google executive Alan Eustace sets new stratosphere skydive world record

This handout picture obtained courtesy of Paragon Space Development Corporation shows Google executive Alan Eustace after a record-breaking 41,000 meter space dive, parachuting back to Earth in Roswell, New Mexico on Oct 24, 2014. -- PHOTO:
This handout picture obtained courtesy of Paragon Space Development Corporation shows Google executive Alan Eustace after a record-breaking 41,000 meter space dive, parachuting back to Earth in Roswell, New Mexico on Oct 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A skydiving Google executive is safely back on Earth after jumping out of a giant balloon floating in the stratosphere more than 40km above New Mexico, a feat that broke the sound barrier and shattered a world altitude record.

Alan Eustace, a senior vice president at the Mountain View, California-based company, was lifted up 41,419m by an enormous balloon shortly before dawn on Friday, the Paragon Space Development Corp said.

After spending about 30 minutes "experiencing the wonders of the stratosphere," he plunged toward the earth, said the company which designed his custom-made pressurized spacesuit and life support system.

The jump topped a record set by Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner over New Mexico on Oct 14, 2012 after he jumped from a height of 39,045m.

Eustace remained in a free fall for about 4.5 minutes before landing safely, setting a world record for the highest skydive and breaking the sound barrier in the process.

"In rapid free-fall, Alan experienced a short period of near weightlessness and within 90 seconds exceeded the speed of sound," Paragon said on its website.

He landed on the ground just 15 minutes after he was lifted into the air.

Eustace, who has worked with Google since 2002, is a pilot and skydiver, Paragon said.

"I always wondered: what if you could design a system that would allow humans to explore the stratosphere as easily and safely as they do the ocean?" Eustace is quoted as saying on the space development company's website.