Winds blamed as attempt to break free-fall record is aborted

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 9:44 a.m. CDT

LOS ANGELES (MCT) — After squeezing into a white spacesuit and helmet, daredevil Felix Baumgartner entered a pressurized capsule and waited to be taken to 120,000 feet above New Mexico for a leap into history.

But as the desert winds picked up to 17 mph, 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 around 2 mph, but 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. His world record stands at 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 around 8:30 a.m. EDT, but it was pushed back to 1:30 p.m. because of gusty winds.

The mission began when Baumgartner suited up. But as the massive balloon that is set 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 does launch and is successful, Baumgartner is expected to become the first free-falling human to break the sound barrier, hitting speeds of around 700 mph.

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