Felix Baumgartner's supersonic leap attempt aborted

 

Extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner has canceled his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall into the New Mexico desert because of high winds.

The 43-year-old former military parachutist from Austria had hoped to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier and shatter three other world records.

But the weather today forced his team to cancel his planned ascent in a 55-storey, ultra-thin helium balloon that was to take him to the stratosphere.

Because the balloon is so delicate, it could only take flight if winds were 2mph or below.

Those plans were in question before sunrise, when winds at 700 feet above ground - the top of the balloon - were 20mph, far above the 3mph maximum for a safe launch, mission meteorologist Don Day said.

With winds calming, they began the launch process, with Baumgartner suiting up and entering the capsule. During the inflation, a live online feed showed winds whipping the balloon around.

The balloon had been scheduled to launch about 7am local time from a field near the airport in a flat dusty town that until now has been best known for a rumoured 1947 UFO landing.

Baumgartner was to make a nearly three-hour ascent to 120,000 feet, then take a bunny-style hop from a pressurised capsule into a near-vacuum where there is barely any oxygen to begin what is expected to be the fastest, farthest free-fall from the highest-ever manned balloon.

Baumgartner spent Monday at his hotel, mentally preparing for the dangerous feat with his parents, girlfriend and a few close friends, his team said. He had a light dinner of salmon and a salad, then had a massage. He spent this morning resting in a trailer near the launch site.

Among the risks: Any contact with the capsule on his exit could have torn the pressurised suit. A rip could have exposed him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero. It could have caused potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as "boiling blood".

He could also have spun out of control, causing other risky problems.

 

 

The energy drink maker Red Bull, which is sponsoring the feat, has been promoting a live internet stream of the event from nearly 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and a helicopter. But organisers said there would be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.

And while Baumgartner hopes to set four new world records when he jumps, his free-fall is more than just a stunt.

His dive from the stratosphere should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents.

Jumping from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners, Baumgartner expects to hit a speed of 690 mph or more before he activates his parachute at 9,500 feet above sea level, or about 5,000 feet above the ground in south-eastern New Mexico. The total jump should take about 10 minutes.

His medical director is Dr Jonathan Clark, a Nasa space shuttle crew surgeon who lost his wife, Laurel Clark, in the 2003 Columbia accident. No one knows what happens to a body when it breaks the sound barrier, Clark said.

"That is really the scientific essence of this mission," said Clark, who is dedicated to improving astronauts' chances of survival in a high-altitude disaster.

Clark told reporters Monday he expects Baumgartner's pressurised spacesuit to protect him from the shock waves of breaking the sound barrier. If all goes well and he survives the jump, Nasa could certify a new generation of spacesuits for protecting astronauts and provide an escape option from spacecraft at 120,000 feet, he said.

Currently, spacesuits are certified to protect astronauts to 100,000 feet, the level former US air force captain Joe Kittinger reached in his 1960 free-fall record from 19.5 miles.

Kittinger's speed of 614mph was just shy of breaking the sound barrier at that altitude.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Sport
footballThe latest scores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Man City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week