Daredevil's New Mexico skydive off for now

Tue Oct 9, 2012 3:38pm EDT
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By Irene Klotz

(Reuters) - An Austrian daredevil called off his death-defying skydive from a balloon 23 miles over the New Mexico desert on Tuesday because of winds at the launch site.

Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year-old helicopter pilot, hot-air balloonist and professional skydiver, had been preparing to break a longstanding altitude record.

But his team announced the launch had been aborted moments after Baumgartner's balloon was set to carry him aloft over Roswell, New Mexico.

"Mission aborted due to gusty winds," a statement on the website of sponsor Red Bull said.

Team spokeswoman Sarah Anderson later said no new launch attempt would be made before Thursday. She said Wednesday had been ruled out due to weather concerns and to give Baumgartner's support crew a day off.

Winds were about 17 mph when the balloon launch was called off at 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT).

The 30-million-cubic-foot (850,000-cubic-meter) plastic balloon, which is about one-tenth the thickness of a Ziploc bag, cannot handle winds greater than 6 miles per hour (9.7 km per hour).

If successful, Baumgartner would be the first parachutist to break the sound barrier but not the first person to fall faster than the speed of sound. On January 25, 1966, Bill Weaver, a test pilot aboard an SR-71 Blackbird aircraft, was ejected over the United States from his damaged plane at Mach 3.18 - more than three times faster than the speed of sound - and survived.   Continued...