Skydiver prepares for record-breaking jump from 90K feet

July 23, 2012 10:10:45 AM PDT
An Austrian skydiver is preparing for his biggest challenge yet. Felix Baumgartner plans to jump 90,000 feet out of a hot air balloon Monday, free falling back to earth in a test of the limits of the human envelope.

You don't need a rocket to get to the edge of space. Only a balloon and a capsule.

In a pressurized suit that looks much like what an astronaut might wear, Baumgartner jumped back to earth from 71,000 feet in March. This next attempt -- the Red Bull Stratos mission -- will be from 91,000.

The atmosphere is so thin at that altitude; Baumgartner's team says he will reach speeds of over 500mph within seconds of leaping from the capsule.

On another jump from even higher next month, he will break the sound barrier.

"This will be the first time somebody has entered the sound barrier and come back out of it without the aid of an aircraft," said Dr. Jonathan Clark, medical director with the Red Bull Stratos mission.

Clark is a six-time space shuttle crew surgeon. He admits this jump is dangerous. At those altitudes, water will spontaneously boil.

"Water in your body, which 70 percent of your body is water, will also do that," he said.

It will automatically open his reserve parachute.

Baumgartner will wear several parachutes in a specially designed pack, allowing him to glide back to Earth.

The jump is sponsored by Red Bull, but leaders there insist it is not a stunt. The data gathered will help NASA and its commercial partners design better survival systems for future astronauts -- something which could have saved the life of Clark's wife Laurel in 2003 if the crew of space shuttle Columbia had a chance to escape that ill-fated flight.

Baumgartner's jump is set for 8am Houston time.

ABC13 reporter Kevin Quinn will be at the jump and will have live reports on Eyewitness News.


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