UPDATE: The jump as been canceled, due to gusty wind conditions. Stay tuned…
This afternoon, the Austrian parachuter Felix Baumgartner is expected to leap from a balloon nearly 23 miles above Roswell, New Mexico, and freefall Earthwards, achieving speeds faster than the speed of sound.
Baumgartner has already put on his pressurized suit that will protect him against the low air pressures he’ll be falling through. His team is now laying out the stratospheric balloon, due to launch at 1:15 pm EDT, to take him up to the upper reaches of the stratosphere, three times the cruising altitude of commercial aircraft. (The project‘s site bills this as “the edge of space”—the actual edge of space, not to be pedantic, is defined as 62 miles above sea level.) Once he jumps, he’s expected to reach the speed of sound—690 miles per hour at those high altitudes—in the first 40 seconds. He’ll then open his parachute a mile above ground to slow his arrival back on solid ground. That’s if all goes well—and much could go wrong.
But if he succeeds, he will have broken Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger’s record for free-fall from the greatest height (19.5 miles, 1960) and will be the first human to break the sound barrier outside a vehicle.
In addition to breaking records, this feat will also be a test of Baumgartner’s pressurized suit, which could represent a “new generation” of spacesuits for protecting astronauts who needed to make emergency jumps from their ships at stratospheric heights.
Watch the jump live in the video above.