Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner's previous two attempts to set a world record in freefalling from an altitude of 23 miles, or from "the edge of space" were aborted in the last minute due to heavy winds. In a few minutes, the daredevil will find out if third time will be the charm for gravity to finally not be denied. Watch the live webcast below and find out in an hour when the process is officially scheduled to begin.
A step by step process of what the key events are if the jump is allowed to proceed:
Weather conditions permitting, well-known daredevil Felix Baumgartner will enter a six-foot-diameter pressurized capsule and ascend to 120,000 feet via a high altitude balloon. When he hits the right altitude, he'll begin his jump.
Within about 40 seconds he will have accelerated enough to break the sound barrier — also a new record, in addition to the altitude. As he falls he enters thicker air that could have a deadly effect; it could cause him to suddenly spin out of control and lose consciousness. If that happens he risks being unable to deploy his parachute.
If all goes well, his free fall should last an incredible five and a half minutes, and he will deploy his chute at 5,000 feet.
Should his attempt be success it will set the new world record for a high altitude jump. The current record was set in 1960 by United States Air Force Col. Joseph Kittinger, who is now serving as a consultant on Baumgartner's attempt.
Courtesy of Reuters, here is a sampling of some of the risks and hazards associated with attempting a record 23 miles of free fall.
- Colliding shock waves, triggered by a human body moving faster than the speed of sound, could hit with the force of an explosion, though the risk of this is much less likely in the stratosphere where the air is extremely thin.
- The low-pressure environment could cause Baumgartner to go into a flat spin. If a spin lasts for too long, he could lose consciousness and injure his eyes, brain and cardiovascular system.
- Exposure to vacuum, even for a short period of time, could cause Baumgartner's blood literally to boil. The condition, known as ebullism, causes fluids in the body to turn to gas.
- Gas seeping into the body due to a relatively rapid exposure to low pressure can cause decompression sickness, or "the bends."
- As pressure decreases, trapped gas in the body can cause ear blockages, dizziness and acute tooth, sinus and gastrointestinal pain. When decompression is sudden, lungs can over-inflate and collapse. A gas bubble in an artery could stop blood flow.
- Extremely cold temperatures pose a threat to Baumgartner and his equipment. Excessive heat from the sun is also a risk.
- Ultraviolet radiation is more than 100,000 times as strong at 120,000 feet, where Baumgartner plans to begin his jump, as it is at ground level, but Baumgartner should have a very short exposure time.
- Wind shear could make Baumgartner nauseous and could destroy his balloon.
- A breach in Baumgartner's protective spacesuit or the accidental deployment of a parachute are considered the biggest safety concerns
And finally, for the visual learners, an infographic of all you need to know, via Space.com: