Austrian Skydiver to Attempt Supersonic Jump

Posted October 9th, 2012 at 6:10 am (UTC-5)
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An Austrian skydiver hopes to fall faster than the speed of sound Tuesday when he jumps from a capsule 37 kilometers above the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico.

Felix Baumgartner is trying to become the first person to break the sound barrier, while also setting records for the highest and longest free fall.

The plan would also give him the record for the highest manned balloon flight, after a massive helium balloon measuring about 170 meters in height tows his capsule up into the stratosphere before he jumps.

The 43-year-old Baumgartner will wear a special pressurized space suit and free fall for more than five and a half minutes before deploying a parachute.

He is facing a number of dangers, including damage to the suit that could expose him to extreme temperatures and a lack of oxygen. The thin air up at the jump altitude will also make it difficult for him to control his dive.

His team hopes the jump will help the future development of aerospace safety, with applications for space suit and parachute design, as well as developing protocols for exposure to high altitudes and acceleration.

Baumgartner has been preparing for the jump for five years, including two test practice jumps from lower altitudes earlier this year.

The jump was delayed from Monday because of a cold front moving through the area.