Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner is hoping to break the sound barrier today in a 120,000 foot jump over New Mexico, but so far the weather has delayed the operation. The planned early morning 23-mile free fall was delayed by high winds of ~20 mph about 700 feet off the ground – the location at the top of the balloon - but there are hopes that the winds will calm down later today. The 43-year old former military parachutist plans to take the 55-story, ultra-thin and easy-to-tear helium balloon into the stratosphere for the jump that could make him the first skydiver to break the sound barrier and break three other world records. The balloon was scheduled to launch at around 7 am local time from a field near the airport in the town most famous for the rumored 1947 UFO landing, Roswell, New Mexico.
If the mission does go ahead as planned later today, Baumgartner will make a nearly three-hour ascent to 120,000 feet, then jump from a pressurized capsule carried up by the ballon 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 (these are the three other world records). The altitude record currently is held by Joe Kittinger who jumped from 19.5 miles in 1960 and reached a speed of 614 mph. After jumping from 120,000 feet, Baumgartner expects to hit a speed of 690 mph before activating his parachute at about 5000 feet above the ground in southeastern New Mexico. The total jump should take about 10 minutes.
At 23 miles up, "Fearless Felix" as he is known, will jump through the stratosphere into the troposphere. Temperatures can be as low as -90 degrees F at the top of the troposphere, but actually a bit warmer where the jump begins in the stratosphere (around -70 degrees F) as temperatures actually rise up there. Baumgartner has made two practice jumps in preparation for this, one from 15 miles up in March and another from 18 miles in July. The jump was actually originally scheduled for yesterday, but was delayed until today due to a cold frontal passage in the region. Stay tuned.