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Felix might lift-off today


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After several weather delays, today might finally be the day, weather permitting.

Preparations are underway...

Perhaps the delays are fortuitous, as today is the anniversary of another feat: It marks the 65th anniversary of U.S. test pilot Chuck Yeager's successful attempt to become the first man to officially break the sound barrier aboard an airplane.


Live feed:


The data gathered from this feat -- regardless of the outcome -- will be used to advance the science and technology of aviator survival/rescue.

So, it represents much more than a "daredevil" stunt.

(The team medical director is the widower of a Columbia astronaut.)

Fingers and toes crossed for Felix.

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Felix Baumgartner will be defying death when he plunges from a balloon 120,000 feet above Earth. Jumping from that altitude, and surviving, means he be the first person to break the sound barrier without the protection of an aircraft.

The Austrian-born Baumgartner is famous for pushing the limits of human endurance -- he's jumped from the world's tallest building and parasailed over the English Channel -- but this event will be one for the books, if he succeeds. The project is called Stratos, and it is sponsored by Red Bull, the maker of high-caffeine energy drinks that is famous for helping athletes push their limits.

This daredevil dive from near space is not a first -- Baumgartner will be breaking a 52 year old record, and he is smart enough to recruit the man who set the record, the legendary Colonel Joe Kittinger. On August 16, 1960 Kittinger jumped from a balloon at an altitude of 102,900 feet. He fell for almost five minutes before opening a parachute to slow his decent at 18,000 feet. He made history for the highest balloon ascent, the highest parachute jump, and the fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.

Does Kittinger fret about losing his record? "Not at all," he said. "Records are made to be broken and I want to see how Felix can push the envelope with this great team to break this record."

Click Here for Pictures: Felix Baumgartner, Record-Setting Skydiver

Kittinger isn't the only star on Stratos team of experts. Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon currently with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, is working with an experienced medical team to reduce the risks.

"We have run hours of tests in vacuum chambers, we are finessing life support systems, and monitoring his systems during the dive, calculating what he will need during the plunge back to Earth to survive," said Clark. "We are rehearsing this over and over, and will do tests from 60, 000 feet and 90,000 feet"

It is dangerous. Every member of the team acknowledges the risks. Clark says he can tick them off in his sleep: extreme cold, the near-vacuum of space, temperature fluctuations, the risk of an uncontrolled flat spin, drogue chute failure, spacesuit puncture, life support systems failure.

What may seem like a stunt to some is a personal mission for Clark. His wife Laurel was one of the seven astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia when it broke up over Texas in 2003. He said he believes that if she had been wearing a spacesuit like Baumgartner's, she might have survived the accident. This suit could be the next could be the next-generation spacesuit for NASA.

"What the Red Bull Stratos does for me in some way is justify the loss of the of the Columbia crew because it has pushed us to say we will never give up, we will always try to bring an unsurvivable situation into a survivable realm," he said. "So for me this is personally important. It could lead to better crew escape systems."

Stratos plans to launch from Roswell, New Mexico, in late summer or early fall. Weather is critical because the massive balloon is fragile and tears easily; it can't launch with winds in excess of 4 mph or under heavy cloud cover.

Baumgartner will ascend in a pressurized capsule, with a balloon that will be 700 feet tall when filled with helium. The preparations will start at midnight with an hour or so to oxygenate Baumgartner, to purge his system of nitrogen, which could form bubbles in his bloodstream.

The ascent to 120,000 feet will take a couple of hours. Once Baumgartner reaches altitude, he will depressurize the capsule, step out onto a ledge, and dive back down to Earth -- a plunge that could take seven minutes. He will have parachutes to slow him down when he hits 5,000 feet or terminal velocity.

Page One of a Two page article..

SOURCE: http://abcnews.go.co...ory?id=15546674


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For those of you lucky enough to have a great cable TV service, the balloon trip up / jump is being shown live on VELOHD (1235 on Bright House cable boxes) (Velocity Cable channel feed) .. as SPACE JUMP LIVE.. with live audio from the jump team.

Evidently Velocity is carrying the Discovery News channel feed (which I don't get on my cable service)

For those of you that get cable service and have high def channels as well as a HD feed, the view is SPECTACULAR from cameras mounted ON the capsule.. IN the capsule.. and three special high altitude tracking camera trucks used in the space program. AND a live feed from "mission control".. (which the TV guys are always talking over so you miss half the important stuff.. 38,000 feet 32 minutes in "flight" as I post this


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Wow - that was a nailbiter!

Unofficial records broken: highest manned balloon flight, highest jump, (probable) speed record for free fall (>Mach 1).

Unofficially, he missed Kittinger's record for longest free fall (4 min, 36 sec) by only 12 seconds -- it seems that the visor fogging issue might have contributed. Bummer.

A TRULY AMAZING accomplishment for both the individual and the team and for science/technology!

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It was so cool when he came all the way down and he landed so lightly standing on his feet.. Those ram-air, steerable 'chutes are the cat's pajamas.. That guys has brass ones the size of two Pluto-sized objects.


PS: Thanks for starting the topic DD. I had forgotten all about his jump because of the delays and would have missed this moment in history.. So now I've been here, as an adult, for the first Man on the moon and the first guy to hit mach 1 in just his jump suit.. no metal plane wrapped around the "delicate" human body.

The spirit lives on..

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