Friday, March 16, 2012

Felix skydives to Earth from space

Felix prepares to jump during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos over Roswell, New Mexico on March 15, 2012. He is shooting for 23 miles up. A spokesperson claims a practice jump of 13 miles was a success (AP/Red Bull Stratos, Jay Nemeth).

Cats always land on their feet. We can only hope the same is true for Felix in space.

(AP) Skydiving daredevil Felix Baumgartner is more than halfway toward his goal of setting a world record for the highest jump.

Baumgartner lifted off Thursday for a test jump from Roswell, N.M., aboard a 100-foot helium balloon. He rode inside a pressurized capsule to 71,581 feet -- 13.6 miles -- and then jumped. He parachuted to a safe landing, according to project spokeswoman Trish Medalen.

He's aiming for nearly 23 miles this summer. The record is 19.5 miles.

"The view is amazing, way better than I thought," Baumgartner said after the practice jump, in remarks provided by his representatives.

Thursday's rehearsal was a test of his capsule, full-pressure suit, parachutes and other systems. A mini Mission Control -- fashioned after NASA's -- monitored his flight.

Baumgartner reached speeds of up to 364.4 mph Thursday and was in free fall for three minutes and 43 seconds, before pulling his parachute cords, Medalen said. The entire jump lasted eight minutes and eight seconds. She stressed that the numbers are still unofficial.

With Thursday's successful test, Baumgartner is believed to be only the third person ever to jump from such a high altitude and free fall to a safe landing, and the first in a half-century.

"I'm now a member of a pretty small club," he said.

When the 42-year-old Austrian known as "Fearless Felix" leaps from 120,000 feet in a few months, he expects to break the sound barrier as he falls through the stratosphere at supersonic speed. More

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