Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Latest News

October 9, 2012

Skydiver begins prep for supersonic jump

Join the discussion on this story by using the Facebook app to the right

ROSWELL, N.M. — A weather hold that threatened to cancel extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner's death-defying, 23-mile free fall into the southeastern New Mexico desert was lifted Tuesday morning and crews began laying out his balloon.

The planned early morning launch had been delayed by high winds. But just before 9 a.m., the winds calmed and the team decided to proceed with plans to make the flight, a process that would take about two hours.

The 43-year-old former military parachutist from Austria plans to take off in a 55-story, ultra-thin and easy-to-tear helium balloon that will take him into the stratosphere for the jump. He hopes it will make him the first skydiver to break the sound barrier and shatter three other world records.

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, said mission meteorologist Don Day.

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 11:30 a.m., 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.

Baumgartner spent Monday at his hotel, mentally preparing for the dangerous feat with his parents, girlfriend and four close friends, his team said. He had a light dinner of salmon and a salad, then had a massage. He spent Tuesday morning resting in an Airstream trailer near the launch site.

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.

The energy drink maker Red Bull, which is sponsoring the feat, has been promoting a live Internet stream of the event at http://www.redbullstratos.com/live from nearly 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and a helicopter. But organizers said there will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.

Despite the dangers and questionable wind forecast, high performance director Andy Walshe said the team was excited, not nervous. Baumgartner has made two practice jumps, one from 15 miles in March and another from 18 miles in July.

"With these big moments, you get a kind of sense that the energy changes," he said Monday. "It really is just kind of a heightened energy. It keeps you on your toes. It's not nervousness, it's excitement."

During the ascent, Walshe said, the team will have views from a number of cameras, including one focused directly on Baumgartner's face. Additionally, they will have data from life support and other systems that show things like whether he is getting enough oxygen.

The team also expects constant communication with Baumgartner, although former Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger, whose 1960 free-fall record from 19.5 miles Baumgartner hopes to break, is the only member of mission control who will be allowed to talk to him.

And while Baumgartner hopes to set four new world records, his free fall is more than just a stunt.

His dive from the stratosphere should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents.

Jumping from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners, Baumgartner's expects to hit a speed of 690 mph or more before he activates his parachute at 9,500 feet above sea level, or about 5,000 above the ground in southeastern New Mexico. The total jump should take about 10 minutes.

His medical director is Dr. Jonathan Clark, a NASA space shuttle crew surgeon who lost his wife, Laurel Clark, in the 2003 Columbia accident. No one knows what happens to a body when it breaks the sound barrier, Clark said.

"That is really the scientific essence of this mission," said Clark, who is dedicated to improving astronauts' chances of survival in a high-altitude disaster.

Clark told reporters Monday he expects Baumgartner's pressurized spacesuit to protect him from the shock waves of breaking the sound barrier. If all goes well and he survives the jump, NASA could certify a new generation of spacesuits for protecting astronauts and provide an escape option from spacecraft at 120,000 feet, he said.

Currently, spacesuits are certified to protect astronauts to 100,000 feet, the level Kittinger reached in 1960. Kittinger's speed of 614 mph was just shy of breaking the sound barrier at that altitude.

___

Follow Jeri Clausing at http://twitter.com/jericlausing.

 

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • 4-18-14 Campbell Award.jpg Campbell named ‘Texas Aviator of the Year’

    It was quite an honor for Corsicana's “Dr. Dave.” The longtime Corsicana physician, and namesake of C. David Campbell Field at the Corsicana airport was named 2014 Texas Aviator of the Year by the Texas Department of Transportation.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18-14 Hop 1.jpg Kids at Hop Downtown offer insights into holiday

    The Hop Downtown, sponsored by the Main Street Office and local businesses, was colorful, loud and joyous, with Easter Bunny photos, free eggs, cookies, a bounce house and face painting Thursday afternoon in downtown Corsicana.

    April 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • 4-18-14 Wesley UMC.jpg Two churches set to close

    Two local United Methodist churches are going through the early stages of closing their doors.
    Barry United Methodist Church and Wesley United Methodist Church in north Corsicana are both ending their ministries, according to their respective pastors.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18-14 NavarroRegional.jpg Baker named hospital ‘Employee of Year’

    Navarro Regional Hospital has named Sandy Baker as 2013 Employee of the Year. This award is the highest honor bestowed on a hospital employee each year. Baker was chosen from among 327 fellow employees for the honor.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Church News for Friday, April 18, 2014

    News and announcements submitted by congregations throughout Navarro County.

    April 17, 2014

  • Mounted shoot event draws wide interest

    A fast-growing sport among western enthusiasts is taking center stage in Hubbard next weekend.
    The Hubbard Rodeo Association is hosting a Cowboy Mounted Shoot on Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27

    April 17, 2014

  • Calicos to host dance clinic Saturday

    The Corsicana High School Calico Drill Team will host a special dance clinic for girls in 6th , 7th and 8th grade this Saturday, April 19 beginning at 9 a.m. in the Calico Dance Studio

    April 17, 2014

  • UWNC main Helping our fellow man

    A beautiful day, delicious food and the very entertaining Mike Doocy of Fox 4 Sports combined to provide United Way volunteers with a lot of appreciation for their hard work in the 2014 campaign.

    April 16, 2014 4 Photos

  • YMCA warns against woman fraudulently soliciting funds

    A woman has been soliciting funds, falsely portraying herself as representing the YMCA, Executive Director Terry Seth reported late Wednesday afternoon. A business owner in town informed Seth a lady solicited his business, saying she was raising money for the YMCA for a program for deaf children. Seth says the YMCA does not have such a program.

    April 16, 2014

  • Wine and walking

    About a dozen local businesses are opening their doors for the Derrick Days Wine and Cheese stroll this year, and many are only doing it as an open house opportunity.

    The stroll is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. April 24 in downtown Corsicana. It's free and open to the public.

    April 16, 2014