- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) - Preparations for extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner to make a death-defying 23-mile free fall into the southeastern New Mexico desert are on hold Tuesday morning due to winds, but his team is hopeful the winds will die down and he’ll still make the jump.

Baumgartner’s team says winds on the ground are still, but are in the high teens at about 700 feet, which is about the height of the top of the balloon. Baumgarterner’s team is on hold, hoping the winds die down in time to get the mission prepped and the helium balloon launched before the window for a high-altitude flight closes around 10 a.m. Mountain time.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner hopes to end five years of preparation with a death-defying 23-mile free fall into the southeastern New Mexico desert Tuesday morning.

Weather permitting, the 43-year-old Austrian will take off in a 55-story, ultra-thin and easy-to-tear helium balloon that will take him into the stratosphere for a jump that he hopes will make him the first skydiver to break the sound barrier and shatter three other world records.

The balloon is set to launch at about 7 a.m. from a field near the airport in a flat dusty town that until now has been best known for a rumored 1947 UFO landing.

After a nearly three-hour descent to 120,000 feet, Baumgartner will take a bunny-style hop from a pressurized capsule into a near-vacuum where there is barely any oxygen to begin what is expected to be the fastest, farthest free fall from the highest-ever manned balloon.

But the former military parachutist can only make the jump if winds are no greater than 2 mph. A cold front already delayed the jump by one day, but his team was optimistic Monday that a break before a second cold front is due to arrive Thursday will give him the opportunity to complete his mission.

Baumgartner spent Monday at his hotel, mentally preparing for the dangerous feat with his parents, girlfriend and four close friends, his team said.

Among the risks: any contact with the capsule on his exit could tear the pressurized suit. A rip could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero. It could cause potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as “boiling blood.”

He could also spin out of control, causing other risky problems.

The energy drink maker Red Bull, which is sponsoring the feat, has been promoting a live Internet stream of the event at http://www.redbullstratos.com/live from nearly 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and a helicopter. But organizers said there will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.

Despite the dangers and questionable wind forecast, high performance director Andy Walshe said the team was excited, not nervous. Baumgartner has made two practice jumps, one from 15 miles in March and another from 18 miles in July.

“With these big moments, you get a kind of sense that the energy changes,” he said Monday. “It really is just kind of a heightened energy. It keeps you on your toes. It’s not nervousness, it’s excitement.”

During the ascent, Walshe said, the team will have views from a number of cameras, including one focused directly on Baumgartner’s face. Additionally, they will have data from life support and other systems that show things like whether he is getting enough oxygen.

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