UPDATE, 1:43 p.m.: Mission aborted due to gusty winds. Not clear when will be rescheduled. Live video says Felix Baumgartner “disappointed.”
UPDATE, 1:25 p.m. Tuesday (11:25 a.m. MDT): Launch time may be closer to 11:35 a.m. (MDT) based on current indications. Baumgartner has entered the capsule. Watch the live broadcast here.
UPDATE, 1:10 p.m. Tuesday (11:10 a.m. MDT):
The Stratos team reports improved wind conditions, with Baumgartner’s official launch now scheduled for 11:15 a.m. (MDT).
UPDATE, 10:00 a.m. Tuesday:
Red Bull Stratos has announced a weather hold due to winds aloft, with a possible launch at 11:30 a.m. (MDT) today.
Original post (from Monday morning): Skydiving from 23 miles above Earth is certainly not for the faint of heart. That’s what 43-year-old Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner will set out to accomplish this Tuesday morning (Oct. 9).
With only a pressurized spacesuit and a parachute, Baumgartner hopes to become the first person to break the speed of sound during free fall. If successful (i.e. survives), he will set a new record for the highest and fastest human free fall in history.
Dubbed “Fearless Felix,” Baumgartner has spent five years training for this immense leap of faith. A giant helium-filled balloon will enable Baumgartner’s space capsule to take off from the New Mexican desert shortly after dawn on Tuesday (Red Bull, his sponsor, delayed the mission by 24 hours due to gusty winds from a nearby cold front).
After liftoff, it will take nearly three hours for Baumgartner to ascend to 120,000 feet above Earth – three times higher than the cruising altitude of commercial aircraft. Upon exiting his mission capsule, Baumgartner will jump head first, testing the limits of scientific knowledge as he flies toward Earth at supersonic speeds of 690 mph (Mach 1).
Video: How was Felix’s parachute designed? (Red Bull)
Baumgartner will reach the speed of sound in less than a minute and continue in free fall for five whole minutes before he opens his parachute at 5,000 ft. If all goes according to plan, he will be back on solid ground in 20 minutes.
Simulation of jump on Red Bull’s YouTube channel
But that’s a big if. Any mishap or equipment failure would mean instant death. Air temperatures in the stratosphere will be as low as -70ºF and air pressure less than 1 percent of what it is on Earth. A crack in his bodysuit would, among other things, cause his lungs to overinflate and his blood to boil. Another concern is that Baumgartner could fall into a flat spin, in which he loses control of his body and enters into an unconscious death spiral.
Baumgartner doesn’t seem deterred by the risks. The former military parachutist has already logged 2,500 jumps from planes and helicopters. In July, he completed a successful practice jump from 18 miles above Earth, which is not quite the world record. That belongs to retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who jumped from 102,800 feet in 1960. Kittinger has been a key ally and mentor in Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos team.
What happens if Baumgartner does survive to set a new record? The Austrian skydiver says he plans to finally retire “because I’ve been successfully doing things for the last 25 years, and I’m still alive.”
Good call, Felix.