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Felix Baumgartner cancels 23-mile supersonic jump

Tuesday, October 09, 2012
A helium balloon that was to take Felix Baumgartner to the stratosphere is pushed by high winds Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 in Roswell, N.M.

A helium balloon that was to take Felix Baumgartner to the stratosphere is pushed by high winds Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 in Roswell, N.M. Winds forced Baumgartner to abort his 23-mile-high free fall. He was attempting to break the speed of sound with his own body. (KABC Photo)

Extreme skydiver Felix Baumgartner has canceled his death-defying, 23-mile free fall into the southeastern New Mexico desert due to high winds.

Baumgartner, known as "Fearless Felix," hoped to set several world records Tuesday, but the weather forced his team to cancel the event. The ultra-thin helium balloon that was to take him to the stratosphere is so delicate, it could only take flight if winds were 2 mph or below.

It was not yet announced when the 43-year-old will try again, but there's word that it may be on Thursday.

When Baumgartner does take the leap, the mission is expected to be the fastest, farthest free fall from the highest-ever manned balloon. The plan, which has been years in the making, is simply astounding. Baumgartner wants to try to make a supersonic stratospheric jump, leaping from 23 miles up and breaking the sound barrier with speeds of more than 700 mph. The former military parachutist from Austria says he's ready for the extreme challenge.

"We practiced this for so many years, and now, we are almost there, so this is my biggest dream, and we are one step closer. I am almost there, so I feel good at the moment," he said.

But Baumgartner's plans were in question before sunrise, when winds at 700 feet above ground - the top of the balloon - were 20 mph, far above the 3 mph maximum for a safe launch, mission meteorologist Don Day said.

When winds calmed, they began the launch process, with Baumgartner suiting up and entering the capsule. But during the inflation, an live online feed showed winds whipping the balloon around.

Along with Baumgartner's nerves of steel, the mission requires cutting-edge equipment. He'll strap on a special helmet, get into a pressurized suit and lift off from Roswell, N.M., in a 3,000-pound capsule. If his suit fails, his lungs will burst and his blood will boil.

The balloon he will take was described as a "40-acre dry cleaning bag," a balloon with 30 million cubic feet of helium. Its skin is much thinner than a Ziploc bag and it will stretch 55 stories high. It's so huge that it would cover 40 acres if laid flat. The ride up to reach 120,000 feet will take close to three hours. Then, with the sky black and the curve of Earth in sight, it will be the moment of truth.

"That one step forward is always an important step, because you know you are coming home, going back to a very healthy environment again, because you have been in a hostile environment for so many hours," said Baumgartner.

The heart-stopping return to Earth is expected to take about five and a half minutes. After 25 years of skydiving, Baumgartner promises the dangerous jump will be his last.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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