Fearless Felix ready for today’s supersonic free fall

October 14, 2012 • Local News

A video screen displays images from past Felix Baumgartner’s jumps, shown in the early [auth] morning hours, Tuesday, before the weather forced postponement of the scheduled jump. The Red Bull Stratos crew and Baumgartner will make a second attempt today. Mark Wilson Photo

Are we ready, Roswell?

Red Bull Stratos announced Saturday that Felix Baumgartner is rested and ready to go for another chance to break the sound barrier in a historic free fall from 23 miles above the surface of the Earth.

The new launch attempt could take place this morning as early as a little before sunrise. Stratos meteorologist Don Day said launch conditions tend to be best at sunrise or shortly thereafter, but that the window for launch could stay open until 11 a.m.

Art Thompson, technical director, said the team will know where it stands for a late morning Sunday launch by 8:30 a.m.

Live streaming coverage of the record-breaking attempt will be available at

If Stratos accomplishes its mission from the edge of space today, Baumgartner would break the sound barrier exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane.

“I’m hoping it will come off, because what a wonderful footnote that would be,” Col. Joe Kittinger, Stratos flight director, said, “the first with a plane, the first one by body.”

Down to its final balloon, the Stratos team has now settled on the likelihood that another does not exist in a warehouse.

Thompson said if the fragile, 55-story balloon suffers the same fate as the previous, another would have to be manufactured in a process that takes four to five weeks.

Due to a weather window that closes some time in November, Thompson added that another balloon loss would most likely push the Stratos mission to 2013.

To get his balloon inflated and aloft, Baumgartner needs near windless conditions at ground level and clear skies.

Baumgartner, 43, stated that he relishes the chance to make history on the same day Yeager went supersonic by airplane, but that no matter the time or day, Stratos will accomplish its mission “no matter what it takes.”

“I’m here with my family and friends who are all super supportive,” Baumgartner stated. “I go to the gym, and try to keep myself fit. I’ve done all of my homework, had all of my briefings with the team I trust. All we are waiting for now is the weather.”

Day said if the mission is delayed to a later time in the morning today, it will probably be for the winds at 800 feet. He said Stratos will not try to launch the balloon unless the team has a 70 percent chance or better for a successful launch.

The weather window will likely remain open for a Monday morning launch if Stratos eliminates today as a possibility. Day said that at this time, Tuesday and Wednesday do not look favorable for a launch.

Kittinger said patience is key for a stratospheric balloon launch, and that weather delays cannot deter Stratos or Baumgartner from finishing its mission to the edge of space.

“John Wayne once said that courage is being scared to death but saddling up into it,” he said. “Well, Felix is ready to saddle up. And we’re ready to give him his horse through the stratosphere.”

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