Delayed by weather, skydiver eyes record-breaking jump

The Associated Press /


ROSWELL, N.M. — Skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s attempt at the highest, fastest free fall in history today is more than just a stunt.

His planned 23-mile dive from the stratosphere should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents.

Jumping from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners, Baumgartner hopes to become the first person to break the sound barrier outside of an airplane. His team has calculated that to be 690 mph based on the altitude of his dive.

His medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark, a NASA space shuttle crew surgeon who lost his wife, Laurel Clark, in the 2003 Columbia accident, says no one knows what happens to a body when it breaks the sound barrier.

“That is really the scientific essence of this mission,” said Clark, who is dedicated to improving astronauts’ chances of survival in a high-altitude disaster.

A cold front that brought winds to the area this weekend prompted the team to move the planned Monday jump to today.