ROSWELL, New Mexico (AP):
Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner cancelled his planned death-defying 23-mile (37.01-kilometre) free fall yesterday because of high winds, the second time this week he was forced to postpone his quest to be the first supersonic skydiver.
The former military parachutist from Austria had planned to ride a pressurised capsule carried aloft by a 55-storey, ultra-thin helium balloon into the stratosphere and then jump in a specially designed suit.
But high winds led to the decision shortly after 11:30 a.m. to abort. Because the balloon is so delicate, it could only take flight if winds were two mph or below.
Baumgartner's team said he has a second balloon and intends to try again, possibly tomorrow.
The balloon had been scheduled to launch about 6:30 a.m. from a field near the airport in a flat dusty town that is best known for a rumoured 1947 UFO landing. But high winds kept the mission in question for hours.
When winds died down, Baumgartner, 43, suited up and entered the capsule and crews began filling the balloon. But the team's discovery it had lost one of two radios in the capsule and a problem with the capsule led to delays in the decision to begin filling the balloon, pushing the mission critically close to a noon cutoff for launch.
As the balloon was finally filling, a gust of 25 mph (40 kph) whipped it around and could have damaged its integrity, mission technical director Art Thompson said.
"Not knowing if the winds would continue or not, we made the decision to pull the plug," he said.
Mission meteorologist Don Day said, "it was just a situation where it took too long" and they lost their already pushed-back launch window.
After sitting fully suited up in his capsule for nearly 45 minutes, Baumgartner was shown on a live video feed leaving the capsule and departing the launch site in his Airstream trailer.
Baumgartner was to make a nearly three-hour ascent to 120,000 feet (36,576 metres), then take a bunny-style hop from the capsule into a near-vacuum where there is barely any oxygen to begin what was expected to be the fastest, farthest free fall from the highest-ever manned balloon.