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Update: Skydiver to take supersonic jump soon

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 | 12:39 PM    

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ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) -- Extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner canceled his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall on Tuesday into the New Mexico desert because of high winds.

The 43-year-old former military parachutist from Austria had hoped to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier and shatter three other world records.

But the weather forced his team to cancel his planned ascent in a 55-story, ultra-thin helium balloon that was to take him to the stratosphere.

Because the balloon is so delicate, it could only take flight if winds were 2 mph or below.

Those plans were in question before sunrise, when winds at 700 feet above ground - the top of the balloon - were 20 mph, far above the 3 mph maximum for a safe launch, mission meteorologist Don Day said.

After sunrise, Day said there were indications the upper level winds might calm, so the team pushed the launch window from 10 a.m. to noon at the latest.

The balloon had been scheduled to launch about 7 a.m. from a field near the airport in a flat dusty town that until now has been best known for a rumored 1947 UFO landing.

If the mission goes, Baumgartner will make a nearly three-hour ascent to 120,000 feet, then take a bunny-style hop from a pressurized capsule into a near-vacuum where there is barely any oxygen to begin what is expected to be the fastest, farthest free fall from the highest-ever manned balloon.

Among the risks: Any contact with the capsule on his exit could tear the pressurized suit. A rip could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero. It could cause potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as "boiling blood."

He could also spin out of control, causing other risky problems.

There will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.

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