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Attempt to break free-fall record is postponed because of winds

Daredevil Felix Baumgartner was suited up for the leap from 120,000 feet, but gusty conditions in New Mexico led mission officials to scrub the balloon flight.

October 09, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
  • Felix Baumgartner, in pressurized suit at left, prepares to enter the capsule in which he was to have been lifted by balloon to an altitude of 120,000 feet, but the attempt to break the free-fall record was aborted.
Felix Baumgartner, in pressurized suit at left, prepares to enter the capsule… (Matt York, Associated Press )

After squeezing into a white spacesuit and helmet, daredevil Felix Baumgartner entered a pressurized capsule and waited to be taken by balloon to 120,000 feet above New Mexico for a leap into history.

But as the desert winds picked up, the attempt to break the world's free-fall record was scrubbed Tuesday afternoon. Officials had said that an attempt at the feat, the longest and fastest free fall, can be made only if winds on the ground are about 2 mph.

Mission officials said that weather conditions Wednesday were not expected to be suitable, and they have not decided when to try again.

Baumgartner, 43, was seeking to shatter a record set by Air Force test pilot Joe Kittinger in 1960. That free fall was more than 19 miles, or 102,800 feet.

The perilous stunt, called Stratos, is funded by the energy drink company Red Bull and was to have been webcast live. The mission was first set to begin about 5:30 a.m. PDT, but it was pushed back to 10:30 a.m. because of gusty winds.

The mission began when Baumgartner suited up. But as the massive balloon that was to take Baumgartner to altitude was being filled with helium, the winds picked up again.

"Mission needed to be aborted due to gusty winds picking up and making a launch too risky," the company said in a statement.

If the mission is successful, Baumgartner is expected to become the first free-falling human to break the sound barrier, hitting speeds of about 700 mph.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

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