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Date published: 10/10/2012
ROSWELL, N.M.--Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner canceled his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall Tuesday because of high winds, the second time this week he was forced to postpone his quest to become the world's first supersonic skydiver.
The former military parachutist from Austria had planned to ride a pressurized capsule carried aloft by a 55-story, 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 take off only if winds were 2 mph or below on the ground.
Baumgartner's team said he has a second balloon and intends to try again, possibly on Thursday.
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 rumored 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 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.
Thompson said the earliest the team could try again would be Thursday because of weather and the need for the crew--which worked all night Monday into Tuesday--to get some rest.