Mon, October 15, 2012
Technology > Science

Skydiver breaks sound barrier in record jump

2012-10-14 19:36:13 GMT2012-10-15 03:36:13(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

The capsule, bottom left, and attached helium balloon carrying Felix Baumgartner lifts off as he attempts to break the speed of sound with his own body by jumping from a space capsule lifted by a helium balloon, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Roswell, N.M. (Photo/AP)

Baumgartner celebrates after successfully completing the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos mission. (Photo/Agencies)

Baumgartner parachutes to Earth after his record-breaking skydive from the edge of space on Sunday. (Photo/Agencies)

A crane carrying the capsule follows the helium balloon during the launch on Sunday. (Photo/Agencies)

Austrian extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner made a record-breaking free fall from a capsule 24 miles (38,400 meters) above Roswell in New Mexico, the U.S., on Sunday, becoming the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.

The 43-year-old former military parachutist lifted his arms in victory after landing in eastern New Mexico desert minutes after jumping from the stratosphere.

Baumgartner took off in a pressurized capsule carried by a 55- story ultra-thin helium balloon in a more than two hours journey into the stratosphere, and then he jumped into a near vacuum with no oxygen to begin the fastest, farthest free fall from the highest-ever manned balloon.

The jump was postponed twice last week because of high winds. Baumgartner almost made an attempt last Tuesday, but the launch was canceled in the last minute when he was waiting in his capsule for the giant helium balloon to finish inflating, a gust of wind knocked down the balloon.

There was a live Internet stream of the event from nearly 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and a helicopter.

After a weather delay of several hours Sunday morning, the balloon rose from its launch site at 9:30 a.m. MT (11:30 a.m. ET), with Baumgartner in the capsule hanging beneath it.

Shortly after launch, screens at mission control showed the capsule as it rose above 3,000 meters, high above the New Mexico desert as cheers erupted from people on the ground.

Baumgartner , dubbed "Fearless Felix," planed to fall 115,000 feet (35,052 meters) in less than five minutes, then deploy a parachute for the final 5,000 feet (1524 meters) to earth.

The daredevil dive has risks. Baumgartner and his team have practices how he can avoid getting trapped in a dangerous " horizontal spin." His life will also depend on the integrity of his pressure suit, since temperatures could hit 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit or lower, and the atmosphere will be so thin that his blood would vaporize if he were unprotected. If he loses consciousness during the five-minute plunge, he will survive only if his parachute deploys automatically. The effects on the body of breaking the sound barrier are also unknown.

The previous record for such a skydive was set by Joe Kittinger, who in 1960 jumped from 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) as part of a U.S. Air Force mission.

Baumgartner, who had been preparing for the jump for five years, made two practice runs from the Roswell area -- one in March and one in July.

Related news:

Skydiver cancels try at supersonic jump

Skydiver ready for record-breaking jump over NM

Skydiver Felix Baumgartner

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