Oct 14 2012
The weather in the US appears to be co-operating for a daredevil's attempt to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.
The forecast looks favourable for former Austrian paratrooper Felix Baumgartner's jump, scheduled for early on Sunday near Roswell, New Mexico, according to meteorologist Don Day.
Mr Baumgartner aims to to launch his 30 million cubic foot helium balloon to hoist a 3,000lb capsule that will carry the jumper 23 miles into the sky.
The jump has already been cancelled twice due to high winds, once damaging the balloon and forcing the use of a back-up for Sunday's planned launch.
Mr Baumgartner wants to break a 1960 high-altitude parachuting record. He will also test a pressurised suit designed for stratospheric jumps.
He called Tuesday's postponement nerve-wracking but said Sunday's date is one already steeped in aviation history. On October 14, 1947, an experimental rocket plane piloted by Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier for the first time over Edwards Air Force Base in California. "I want to break the speed of sound, no matter what it takes," he said in a statement. "As long as we have a spare balloon and more launch days, I'm good."
Mr Baumgartner aims to make a nearly three-hour ascent to 120,000ft, 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.
Any contact with the capsule on his exit could tear the pressurised suit, a rip could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero, and the jump could cause potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as "boiling blood".
He could also spin out of control, causing other risks.
While Mr Baumgartner hopes to set 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.