The man who will fall to earth – very fast
Later today, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner is hoping to become the first human being to break the sound barrier without any mechanical help.
The former special forces soldier is planning to make the world's highest skydive from 23 miles above the Earth's surface. On any normal dive, jumpers rarely descend above a velocity of around 120mph thanks to air resistance. At 23 miles up, where the air is much thinner, Mr Baumgartner expects to break the 768mph sound barrier and will know whether he's successful when his body emits a sonic boom.
Failure could be fatal. Should his body go into a spin greater than 180 rotations per minute, his brain is likely to be liquidised by super-pressurised blood rushing to his head. His suit should emit a corrective parachute if that happens, but no one is entirely sure it will work.
The jump, which will take place above Roswell, New Mexico, is the product of more than five years of planning and has consumed Mr Baumgartner. He has made two practice runs from the Roswell area, from 15 miles high in March and 18 miles in July. But this is the first time he has tried to break the current world record of 19.44 miles, set by the American pilot Joseph Kittinger in 1960.
While the 43-year-old's jump may seem like madness, Nasa is watching his progress closely. Since the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 with the loss of all those on board, Nasa has been looking for ways to create a system where astronauts could survive a high-altitude crash. The jump can be made only if wind speeds are less than two miles per hour.
Watch a live video feed of the jump from the edge of space, starting at 2pm at www.independent.co.uk
- 1 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who ran away after argument with her parents
Alton Towers crash: Four guests seriously injured as Smiler ride carriages collide
Charles Kennedy dead: A guy once asked the Lib Dem leader who his favourite Muppet was and his letter response was wonderful
Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
£24000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...
Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Whats the opportunity? A pro-act...
Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Whats the opportunity? The small...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fabricator welder required for ...