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Daredevil nervous before 23-mile jump
Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner said he was nervous about leaping from a balloon Tuesday nearly 23 miles above Roswell, N.M., but said that’s a good thing.
“Having been involved in extreme endeavors for so long, I’ve learned to use my fear to my advantage,” Baumgartner, a 43-year-old former military parachutist, said in a statement.
“Fear has become a friend of mine,” he said. “It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line.”
Baumgartner, who will attempt to break the world record for highest-ever skydive, was expected to lift off in a 55-story helium-filled balloon at 6:57 a.m. MDT, weather permitting.
Winds must not exceed 2 mph at liftoff to ensure the balloon — whose material is 10 times thinner than a plastic sandwich bag — isn’t damaged, officials of the Red Bull Stratos mission said.
The ascent to 120,000 feet could take up to 3 hours, officials said.
The plan is that when he reaches the right altitude, he will jump from a capsule suspended from the balloon and plummet to Earth in a harrowing free fall that will see him become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.
If he does, he would also break a record set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, who jumped from an open gondola 19.5 miles up but came just shy of breaking the sound barrier.
Kittinger — who is now 84 but was a 32-year-old U.S. Air Force captain at the time — reached a speed of 614 mph, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported.
Kittinger now serves as a Red Bull Stratos adviser, Space.com said.
The mission will be streamed at redbullstratos.com, with a 20-second video delay of the jump in case of a tragic accident.
Baumgartner’s jump is not just for thrills, officials said.
Among the mission’s advisers is Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon whose wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, died in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster.
Clark is dedicated to improving astronauts’ chances of survival in a high-altitude disaster, The Oklahoman said.
“Red Bull Stratos is an opportunity to gather information that could contribute to the development of life-saving measures for astronauts and pilots — and maybe for the space tourists of tomorrow,” Baumgartner said in his statement.
“Proving that a human can break the speed of sound in the stratosphere and return to Earth would be a step toward creating near-space bailout procedures that currently don’t exist.”
Copyright 2012 by United Press International