Luke Aikins on Saturday became the first skydiver to jump from a plane without a parachute or wingsuit and live to tell the story.
In a stunt called "Heaven Sent," the 42-year-old daredevil leaped 25,000 feet to Earth — setting a world record. To accomplish this feat, Aikins had to direct his body in free fall using only the air currents around him to land safely on the high-tech 10,000-square-foot net (about a third the size of a football field) laid out to catch him.
You can see him breaking down his jump ahead of time right here:
The jump was aired live on television via the Fox network during an hourlong special. Aikins fell for about two minutes above the California desert, appearing to soar effortlessly, arms extended, face downward. And as he neared the ground, with a mere second to go, he expertly flipped onto his back and landed without incident.
He then climbed out of the net and embraced his wife, Monica, who was among a cheering group of family and friends, including their 4-year-old son, Aikins' dad, two brothers and a sister, who'd all anxiously watched the breathtaking spectacle.
Aikins, who said during the broadcast that he'd been preparing for this jump for two years, had previously done 18,000 parachute jumps and performed a variety of stunts, including for Iron Man 3.
"Everyone is calling this my 'coming-out jump,' which is ironic considering I've been skydiving since the age of 16," he said in a press release prior to the jump.
In fact, Aikins, whose grandfather co-founded a skydiving school after serving in World War II, is a third-generation skydiver. The family owns Skydive Kapowsin near Tacoma, Wash.
See that tiny speck at the top of the frame? That's Aikins, just a moment before he makes contact with the net beneath him.
Mark Davis/Getty Images for Stride Gum.
And here's the shot just a second after, as Aikins lands safely in the net.
Mark Davis/Getty Images for Stride Gum
Now here's your closeup: After his two-minute free fall, Aikins successfully lands in the 100-by-100-foot net at the Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., on Saturday.
Mondelez International via AP
Further to his credit, Aikins is a safety and training adviser for the United States Parachute Association (USPA), where he provides advanced skydiving training to elite military special forces.
Early in the broadcast of "Heaven Sent," there was almost a change in the script that might have taken away a tad of the excitement around Aikins' jump.
According to The Associated Press, "Just before climbing into a plane to make the jump, Aikins said he had been ordered to wear a parachute but indicated he wouldn't open it. As the plane was climbing to 25,000 feet above the drop zone he said the requirement had been lifted and he took off the chute."