Daredevil readies 23-mile free fall

Oct. 5, 2012 at 7:46 PM
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ROSWELL, N.M., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- An Austrian aerial daredevil planning to leap and free-fall from a balloon 23 miles over New Mexico says he will go supersonic before his parachute opens.

Wearing a pressurized suit and helmet, Felix Baumgartner will plummet from 120,000 feet as scientists, aerospace engineers, the Air Force and NASA study what pilots may encounter when bailing out of aircraft at ultra-high altitudes, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Baumgartner, who has been preparing for the jump for years and has already made several high-altitude test jumps, says he is ready for the high fall, set to take place early Monday.

"I feel like a tiger in a cage waiting to get out," he said in a statement.

Baumgartner's jump is intended to break a free-fall world record of more than 19 miles, or 102,800 feet, set in 1960 by Air Force test pilot Joe Kittinger.

The jump is being is funded by the energy drink company Red Bull, but the company and the jump's organizers deny it's solely for publicity.

"This is a flight test program, not a stunt," Art Thompson, technical project director for the mission, said. "Sure, we're breaking a 52-year-old record, but we're developing technology that will benefit humanity for decades to come."

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