Winds Again Postpone 23-Mile-High Skydive

By Jillian MacMath, Staff Writer
October 10, 2012; 5:02 PM ET
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The 23-mile-high skydive attempt by experienced skydiver Felix Baumgartner, nicknamed 'Fearless Felix,' has been again postponed due to high winds on the ground in Roswell, N.M.

Baumgartner planned to attempt the highest and fastest free fall in the history of the sport Tuesday.

Attempting to jump from 23 miles high, the 43-year-old daredevil hopes to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. The altitude record currently belongs to Joe Kittinger, who jumped from 19.5 miles in 1960 and reached a speed of 614 miles per hour.

Several experienced jumpers have since attempted to break Kittinger's record but have been unsuccessful.

Baumgartner's jump has required years of preparation. In this time, he has made two practice runs from the Roswell area -- one from 15 miles in March then from 18 miles in July.

Though Baumgartner will be equipped with a specially-designed suit, the attempt still poses many risks.

"At 23 miles, he will jumping through the stratosphere into the troposphere. At the top of the troposphere, temperatures could be around -90 degrees F," Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity said.

"Above that, temperatures actually rise in the stratosphere, so it might be around -70 degrees F when he jumps."

However, temperature is not the only threat for Baumgartner.

"There are very few air molecules at the level he is going to," said Darlene Kellner, Skydiving Instructor at Above the Poconos Skydiving in Hazleton, Pa.

"Normal skydivers use air drag to control their bodies, so spinning so fast that you actually have the blood in your body get forced to your extremities is a fear that some hold," Kellner said. "Having your parachute accidentally activate while you are still at high speed could also kill you."

Kellner and her husband Don have made a combined total of more than 55,000 skydives. Don currently holds the Guinness World Record for career total: most parachute descents.

Baumgartner was suited up and inside the capsule Tuesday, before his team made the decision to postpone the jump yet again due to high wind speeds.

The jump can only be made if wind speed on the ground is under two miles per hour.

Baumgartner had originally anticipated making the dive on Monday, but wind from a cold front in the area also forced postponement.

"I admire [Felix and his team] for being willing to take such risks to advance our scientific knowledge of that very harsh environment," Don Kellner said.

"The risks should not be underestimated; there are a multitude of them. This is an extremely expensive and hazardous attempt."

The jump, sponsored by Red Bull, will be streaming live via internet as more than 30 cameras focus in on what Baumgartner has announced will be his final jump.


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