Exploration

Skydiver Jumps into Net from 25,000 Feet

Luke Aikins, who has made more than 18,000 jumps, didn't wear a parachute or wingsuit for this one.

As stuntman and daredevil Luke Aikins fell toward the ground going 150 mph from what seemed like outer space, I kept waiting for a parachute to deploy. But he didn't have one. He wasn't wearing a wingsuit, either.

Instead, he was relying on one heck of a net to catch his 25,000-foot dive.

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Aikins, an experienced 42-year-old stuntman who helps run a skydiving school in Washington state, had to hit a 10,000-square-foot net. That's not actually very big when you're speeding down at 120 mph. The stunt, sponsored by Stride Gum, was aptly dubbed "Heaven Sent." Despite his credentials and careful prep, the jump seemed impossible. When I first heard about the plan, I thought, "This dude could die! Like, he could really die."

Normally the United States Parachute Association requires chutes to open at 2,500 feet, but Aikins and his crew got a waiver. "The way I look at it, in my head and everything, is this is my parachute," he told the Ventura County Star in a video, motioning to the net behind him. "It's a massive parachute. I just have it below me instead of above me."

Aikins made the jump this past Saturday, becoming the first skydiver to survive such a feat.

He leapt with more than 18,000 jumps already under his belt. He's also a well-known stuntman in Hollywood, with credits that include "Ironman 3." In 2014, he picked up a Taurus Award for best specialty stunt for his work on the movie's famous barrel of monkeys airplane scene.

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On Saturday, after his jump team pulled their parachutes, Aikins was on his own. From his cam, the net appeared to be an incredibly tiny target. Suddenly, as he came into view of the crowd on the ground in Simi Valley, Calif., Aikins rolled onto his back and hit the net. The place erupted in cheers.

Later, surrounded by his family, Aikins told reporters, "I'm almost levitating, it's incredible." I half expected him to follow that up with, "I am Ironman." Watch his historic jump here: