Felix Baumgartner’s Record-Breaking Skydive Postponed
(ROSWELL, N.M.) -- Felix Baumgartner and his team in Roswell, N.M., have been forced to postpone the Austrian daredevil's supersonic leap from the edge of space that was scheduled for Tuesday because strong winds hit the area at the scheduled jump time.
When he does take the leap, which may be Thursday, the skydiver will break the world record for highest skydive, falling 23 miles and accelerating from zero to 690 miles per hour in 35 seconds, and become supersonic for almost a minute of the roughly 10-minute leap.
Baumgartner did enter his capsule Tuesday, but winds at 20 miles per hour at the top of the 55-story helium balloon that was to lift him into the stratosphere were far above the safe 3 mph limit. Technical delays, including radio problems, also delayed the balloon filling.
There were hopes that winds would die down later in the day after the feat was postponed from Tuesday morning. The launch was eventually rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET, but it had to be cancelled.
The feat Baumgartner will be attempting could ordinarily only be accomplished by a supersonic jet, or perhaps the space shuttle. Ahead of the jump, the 43-year-old said he was confident that he could do it.
"I practiced this for so many years," he said. "This is my biggest dream."
Baumgartner's dream would be most people's nightmare. Baumgartner will take a ride to 120,000 feet above Earth -- four times higher than most passenger jets fly.
Jonathan Clark, the project's medical director, said that though Baumgartner's team will use a helium balloon to get to the stratosphere, they will have to "transit the death zone."
The pressure is so low at 120,000 feet that if Baumgartner's suit fails, his lungs will burst and his blood will boil. But the most dangerous moment of the jump will come when Baumgartner opens the capsule door and jumps out.
Threats of extreme cold, extreme temperature fluctuations, and the possibility of an uncontrolled flat spin, which could hit 220 rpm, all are dangers of the stunt, as are a failure of the braking parachute, spacesuit puncture and life support systems' failing.
Baumgartner has successfully leaped twice from lower altitudes, but 120,000 feet shattered the record set 52 years ago by former Air Force pilot Joe Kittinger, who is now 84 years old and admitted he was a little jealous.
"Hell yes," Kittinger said. "If he decides he doesn't want to do it, I will go."
Baumgartner, who has a "Born to Fly" tattoo on his arm, said there's not a chance of that.
"It's just me. I like paragliding. I like helicopters. I just love to be near the sky, that is my second home, that is where I belong," he said.
Baumgartner said he wasn't doing this just to set a record. He's also doing it for science, as the jump could help NASA design better and stronger spacesuits for astronauts.
If his mission succeeds, Baumgartner will shatter several records, including:
- First Human to break the speed of sound in free-fall (Mach 1 more than 690 mph).
- Highest free-fall altitude -- 120,000 feet (Joe Kittinger hit 105,000 feet in 1960).
- Highest manned balloon flight at 120,000 feet (previous record was 113,740 feet in 1961).
- Longest free-fall (Baumgartner's team expects 5 minutes, 35 seconds; Kittinger's was 4 minutes, 36 seconds in 1960).
- Largest manned balloon in history at 550 feet tall, with a volume of 30 million cubic feet.
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