Daredevil Felix Baumgartner is currently preparing to break the world record for the highest freefall, jumping from the stratosphere at a height of just over 120,000 feet. But will mechanical problems cause him to cancel the mission?
There are a few problems with the mission so far. Baumgartner will be protected by from the extreme cold by a special pressurized suit. If the suit fails, it could cause his lungs to burst and boil his blood due to rapid changes in the atmospheric pressures and temperatures in space. The extreme cold, uncontrolled spins, chute or life-support system failure pose also could threaten to the daredevil's life.
Now, with only a few thousand feet left to ascend, Baumgartner is experiencing doubts about the safety of his suit. According to Red Bull’s live coverage of the event, Baumgartner expressed doubts about the ability of his helmet to keep him warm enough for the jump. “The visor was not heating as it should,” in the words of Red Bull’s host.
If Baumgartner determines that his visor will not sufficiently protect him, the mission will be aborted. Currently, a team is debating what to do about the malfunction.
“There is an issue, a minor problem, with the heat in the faceplate,” Red Bull’s host stated. “It’s not a problem for the moment in the capsule, but could be a problem when jumping. The mission will continue for the time being as the team considers the options.”
Watch the live stream of the jump below.
Baumgartner has already attempted and cancelled the jump beore, after extreme weather threatened the safety of the jump on October 9. Now, however, the launch has been successful and Baumgartner is currently ascending into the stratosphere.
Baumgartner, 43, lifted off around 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time (11:30 a.m. EDT) in a bid to make the free-fall jump from the edge of space at 120,000 feet in the air, wearing nothing but a space suit and helmet. If successful, he will break the record of the highest altitude ever jumped by man and break the sound barrier before landing in New Mexico. The mission, called Red Bull Stratos, will be livestreamed by Red Bull at the Mission to the Edge of Space landing page, or embedded below.
Baumgartner's ascent into the stratosphere should take two and a half to thre hours, Reuters reports. The descent should last just 15 to 20 minutes, more than half of it beneath the relative safety of his parachute's canopy.
This isn’t “Fearless Felix's” first extreme jump; Baumgartner set the record for the highest BASE jump from a building in 1999 at 1,479 feet off the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as the lowest BASE jump the same year off the Christ Statue in Rio de Janeiro. Then, in 2003, he became the first to cross the English Channel by skydiving across the waterway. In 2007, Baumgartner jumped into the "Seating of the Spirits" in Oman, the second biggest cave in the world, as well as the world's tallest building, Taipei's 101 Tower, at 1,669.95 feet.
"I'm not nuts," Baumgartner told CNN in 2010. "You know, our records are meant to be broken, and I'm a very competitive person. I like the challenge."