Skydiver prepares for 23-mile plunge

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner says he’s all set for his record-breaking attempt to jump from the edge of space next Monday.

There had been some doubt as to whether the mission could go ahead after  Baumgartner’s space capsule was damaged in a test jump in July. But repairs have now been completed, says the team.

“I feel like a tiger in a cage waiting to get out,” says Baumgartner.

If successful, Baumgartner will not only be breaking a record set over 50 years ago for the highest-altitude jump ever, but will also become the first person to break the sound barrier in freefall.

As if that’s not enough, the jump will involve the highest manned balloon flight and longest freefall as well. There’s also a scientific element to the jump, says the team, as it could ultimately help improve the safety of space travel and enable high-altitude escapes from spacecraft.

During the jump that damaged the capsule, Baumgartner hit speeds of up to 864 kilometers per hour – as fast as a commercial airliner. But while he landed safely, the capsule came down hard.

After repairs, the capsule underwent testing in an altitude chamber at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio, Texas on September 24, and passed with flying colors.

Next Monday’s jump is still dependent on the weather – but the team is confident. “Early fall in New Mexico is one of the best times of the year to launch stratospheric balloons,” says mission meteorologist Don Day.