This morning in Roswell, New Mexico, at approximately 7.30 AM (13:30 GMT) infamous Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will attempt to become the first ever person to break the sound barrier unaided by a vehicle.
5 years of vigorous planning and preparation have gone into the death-defying jump entitled the ‘Red Bull Stratos’ project and if it is successful it will shatter several world records and offer numerous scientific insights into what occurs to the human body at such breakneck speeds.
Baumgartner, 43, plans to jump out of a balloon at an altitude of more than 120,000ft (36.5km), the near vacuum of that altitude should cause him to accelerate to beyond 690mph (1,110km/h) in just 40 seconds.
If everything goes according to plan, Baumgartner’s parachute will open near the ground, allowing him to land in the desert approximately 10 minutes after he dives from the balloon. But it is not without its risks…
Baumgartner, who is well known for jumping from skyscrapers, said he is under no illusion about just how dangerous this dive is. He said “If something goes wrong, the only thing that might help you is God…Because if you run out of luck, if you run out of skills, there is nothing left and you have to really hope he is not going to let you down.”
Many others who have attempted to make dives that break existing records have tragically lost their lives in the process.
Baumgartner does have a secret weapon though, on the team who have been helping him prepare for this epic dive is retired US Air Force Col Joe Kittinger. Kittinger actually holds the record for the highest ever skydive, when he successfully leapt from a balloon at the altitude of 102,800ft (31.3km) way back in the summer of 1960. It says a lot for his achievement that more than half a century later, with all the improvements in modern technology, Kittinger’s record still stands.
Kittinger, who is now in his 80s, will be Baumgartner’s guiding voice, talking to him through a radio during the 2.5 hour ascent and 10-minute supersonic descent!
Baumgartner’s team have gone to great lengths to try and limit the risks that the skydiver will be exposed to, they have built him a special pressurized capsule that will carry him underneath the helium balloon and he will be donning a futuristic full-pressure suit that has been developed using astronauts clothing as a working base.
Researchers on the team believe that Baumgartner’s jump could offer some very valuable insights; they believe information gathered after the jump could see the development of new emergency evacuation systems for high-performance, high-altitude vehicles. NASA has also shown an interest in the project and has asked for updates on Baumgartner’s progress.
A BBC/National Geographic documentary team has been following Baumgartner and his team, it is expected to air in November.
Difficult wind conditions at Roswell airport mean that lift-off for the balloon will occur no earlier than 1130 local time (1730 GMT; 1830BST). Watch the historic skydive live below: