The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

October 9, 2012

Updated: Skydiver cancels try at supersonic jump

ROSWELL, N.M. — Blame it on the wind. Again.

For the second straight day, extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner aborted his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall because of the weather, postponing his quest to become the world's first supersonic skydiver until at least Thursday.

As he sat Tuesday morning in the pressurized capsule waiting for a 55-story, ultra-thin helium balloon to fill and carry him into the stratosphere, a 25 mph gust rushed across a field near the airport in Roswell, N.M.

The wind rushed so fast that it spun the still-inflating balloon as if it was a giant plastic grocery bag, raising concerns at mission control about whether it was damaged from the jostling.

The balloon is so delicate that it can only take off if winds are 2 mph or below on the ground.

"Not knowing if the winds would continue or not, we made the decision to pull the plug," mission technical director Art Thompson said. Baumgartner's team said he has a second balloon and intends to try again.

Thompson said the earliest the team could take another shot would be Thursday because of weather and the need for the crew — which worked all night Monday — to get some rest.

The cancellation came a day after organizers postponed the launch because of high winds. They scheduled the Tuesday launch for 6:30 a.m. near the flat dusty town best known for a rumored UFO landing in 1947.

High winds kept the mission in question for hours.

When winds died down, Baumgartner, 43, suited up and entered the capsule. Crews began filling the balloon. A live online video feed showed a crane holding the silver capsule off the ground.

The team's discovery that it had lost one of two radios in the capsule and a problem with the capsule itself delayed the decision to begin filling the balloon, pushing the mission close to a noon cutoff for launch.

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