World Bulletin / News Desk
Plans for an Austrian daredevil to skydive from a balloon 23 miles (37 km) over the New Mexico desert were on hold on Tuesday due to winds, but his team said the death-defying stunt could still happen later in the day.
Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year-old helicopter pilot, hot-air balloonist and professional skydiver, would break a longstanding altitude record and the sound barrier if the jump goes forward.
Weather will be key. Baumgartner's team issued a statement early Tuesday morning saying the launch of the massive but fragile helium balloon that would carry him to an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,576 meters) above Roswell, New Mexico, had been delayed until at least 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT).
The delay was prompted by winds at about 700 feet (213 meters) above the launch site, the team said.
It was not immediately clear how long the window for the possible launch would remain open but it takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach 120,000 feet.
The 30-million-cubic-foot (850,000-cubic-meter) plastic balloon, which is about one-tenth the thickness of a Ziploc bag, cannot handle winds greater than 6 miles per hour (9.7 km per hour). The balloon will carry a specially made space capsule where Baumgartner will spend the ride into the stratosphere.
Baumgartner hopes to break the current record of 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) for the highest-altitude freefall, a milestone set in 1960 by U.S. Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger.
By jumping from 120,000 feet (36,576 meters) Baumgartner will also break the sound barrier. With virtually no air to cushion his fall, he is expected to reach the speed of sound, which is 690 mph (1,110 kph) at that altitude, after about 35 seconds of freefall.
He will stay supersonic for nearly a minute and should freefall for a total of 5 minutes and 35 seconds.
When Baumgartner jumps from the capsule, the position of his body will be crucial, since there is no air for him to move around in. If he falls in a way that puts him into a rapid spin, Baumgartner could pass out and risk damaging his eyes, brain and cardiovascular system.
Baumgartner's safety gear includes a custom spacesuit to protect him from the low pressure and the extreme cold. Temperatures are expected to be as low as about minus-70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-57 degrees Celsius.)
The near-vacuum puts him at risk of ebullism, a potentially lethal condition in which fluids in the body turn to gas and the blood literally boils. Severe lung damage could occur within minutes.
Helicopters equipped with newly developed instruments to treat lung damage will be standing by during Baumgartner's skydive.
"What we're doing here is not just a record attempt. It's a flight test program," project adviser Jonathan Clark, a medical doctor and former NASA flight surgeon, told reporters during a news conference on Monday.
Among those interested in the spacesuit research are commercial companies developing spaceships for passenger travel. The research could help people survive a high-altitude accident.
Clark's wife, shuttle Columbia astronaut Laurel Clark, died along with six crewmates when the spaceship broke apart over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, as it headed for a landing in Florida.
Baumgartner's jump is sponsored by Red Bull, which will be webcasting the event live at redbullstratos.com
Google is being accused of using practices aimed at preserve its market dominance
Quantum spin liquid validates theory first suggested in 1973
International Civil Aviation Organization 'recognizes that sub-orbital and outer space flights will foster new tourism and transport market'
A joint European-Russian mission aiming to search for traces of life on Mars blasted off on Monday for the start of a seven-month unmanned space journey to the Red Planet.
Scott Kelly has spent more time in space than any other American and has returned back from his mission
Administrator touts success in planetary study, deep-space experiments, aviation innovation
A man left brain-dead after an experimental drug trial in France has died, local media report.
Facebook founder to donate majority of fortune over lifetime to newly formed charity
Facebook will appeal a date privacy ruling in Belgium that forces the social media giant to stop collecting digital information about people who are non-members
Japanese, Chinese, Irish scientists win 2015 Nobel prize in medicine for malaria and parasite research
Discovery could have major implications for pursuit of life on the red planet
Lawsuit sheds light on no poaching policy at Silicon Valley’s biggest companies
Searches for oncoming storms will display information such as maps, forecasts, reminders and preparedness instructions
New service unveiled as survey finds Americans having hard time navigating smartphone etiquette
Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea bid total of over €1.14 billion for the right to use frequencies on the new network