Watch the jump live above.
Red Bull Stratos team leaders say there is a 50-50 chance this morning that Austrian stuntman Felix Baumgartner will lift off in a capsule carried by a 55-story-high, lightweight plastic balloon and rise 23 miles above the earth's surface so that he can jump. If everything goes according to plan, he will rocket down at speeds of roughly 700 miles per hour, breaking the sound barrier in his custom-designed jumpsuit while shattering the record for the fastest ever freefall by a human before deploying a parachute about a mile above the earth and floating to the ground. The current skydive record is held by Joe Kittinger, who traveled 19 miles above the earth in 1960 and jumped before reaching speeds estimated to be 614 miles per hour. “From the beginning of mankind, the boys want to go higher, faster, lower,” Kittinger said in The New York Times. “It’s a fascinating part of human nature. We’re never satisfied with the status quo.”
A capsule with a view. Photo: Red Bull
Things can go wrong, as Kittinger knows. During a training jump in 1959, he blacked out, but his chute deployed automatically. Nobody knows exactly what will happen during Baumgartner's jump. For now, the Austrian waits for calm. Roughly 700 feet above the ground at his New Mexico launch site, the winds are blowing at 20 miles per hour. His team needs them to ratchet down to about three miles per hour so that his balloon, which is one-tenth the thickness of a sandwich bag, can rise safely. After delays, the team has now moved the launch time to 11:30 a.m.
If the jump happens, you can watch it live in the Red Bull Stratos video above. If you want to get a better sense of how this will work out if everything goes according to plan, watch the below video from Red Bull. To learn more about Felix Baumgartner and how he's handling the possibilities of those things that could go wrong, read the collected stories below.
The Supersonic Man, Mary Roach, Outside
"Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner plans to jump out of a balloon gondola 23 miles above the earth, breaking the altitude record for skydiving and becoming the first free-falling human to reach the speed of sound. Dangerous? Only if his parachutes fail, he's killed by shock waves, or he starts spinning so fast that his brain snaps loose from its stem."
The Man Who Would Fall to Earth, Luke Dittrich, Esquire
"From 120,000 feet, Felix Baumgartner will step from a sealed capsule and drop 23 miles. In 35 seconds, he will become the first human to free-fall through the sound barrier. What happens after that, nobody knows...."
Edge of Reason, Charlie Burton, GQ
"Nobody, not even NASA, knows what will happen when Felix Baumgartner breaks the sound barrier."
Daredevil Sets Sights on a 22-Mile Fall, John Tierney, The New York Times
"Whatever the leap means for mankind, it should definitely be one giant step for a man."
What Does One Wear on a 23-Mile Space Jump? Beth Carter, Wired
"Baumgartner’s composite helmet, which weighs 8 pounds, attaches to the suit with a rotating, locking ring, as do his gloves. The visor is fitted with a retractable sunshade and an integrated heating circuit to prevent fogging, as the air temperature will be about -70 Fahrenheit when he steps from the capsule. Opening the visor requires two separate, independent movements, a redundant system designed to prevent Baumgartner from accidentally opening the visor and depressurizing his suit. Then, of course, there’s the issue of breathing. The helmet is equipped with an oxygen regulator that will provide Baumgartner with 100 percent oxygen from the capsule’s liquefied oxygen system during his ascent and a pair of gaseous oxygen tanks during his dive. A drinking port will help him satisfy the other vital need of hydration."
Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Jump on Hold, Associated Press
"Plans for extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner to make a death-defying, 23-mile free fall into the southeastern New Mexico desert were on hold Tuesday morning due to winds, but his team was still hoping the weather would clear after sunrise in time to make the jump."