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Felix Baumgartner Launches Space Jump Bid
A daredevil skydiver has launched his record-breaking attempt to jump from the edge of space.
Felix Baumgartner, 43, plans to leap from a balloon at an altitude of 120,000ft (36,576m) and reach speeds of hundreds of miles an hour, breaking the sound barrier.
The Austrian hopes to be in freefall for five-and-a-half minutes above the New Mexico desert.
If he succeeds he will become the first person to reach supersonic speeds without the protection of an aircraft.
A previous attempt had to be abandoned because of windy weather.
Baumgartner entered the small space capsule that will carry him to his jump height at around 1430GMT.
After another brief delay due to wind, the go-ahead was given to inflate the balloon that will propel Baumgartner into the stratosphere.
The current freefall record is held by Colonel Joe Kittinger, who jumped at an altitude of 102,800ft (31,333m) in 1960.
From mission control, Mr Kittinger, told Baumgartner: "We are going to get your goal and your dream accomplished Felix."
The capsule soared into the sky just after 1630GMT, embarking on a journey that will take around three hours before Baumgartner attempts his historic jump.
The delicate balloon is made of a plastic film just 1/10th the thickness of a sandwich bag.
It holds 850,000 cubic metres of helium gas and will dramatically expand as the balloon rises towards the stratosphere.
Baumgartner will be carried aloft in the capsule into a near-vacuum where there is hardly any oxygen.
He is wearing a specially-designed suit that is pressurised and heavily insulated to protect him against the extreme conditions at high altitude.
He will breath pure oxygen throughout the flight. The moments immediately after he jumps will be critical.
Scientists will monitor the effects of his descent on his body. They hope to develop life-saving technology that could be used by high-altitude pilots, astronauts and space tourists.
During a test jump earlier this year, from an altitude of 97,145ft (29,610m), Mr Baumgartner reached 537mph, the speed of a commercial jetliner.