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October 09, 2012

Austrian Skydiver Postpones Supersonic Jump

by VOA News

An Austrian man who had hoped to become the first person to break the sound barrier in a skydive scrubbed his attempt shortly before his planned launch.

Organizers of Felix Baumgartner's skydive cited gusty winds as they called off Tuesday's attempt above the desert in the U.S. state of New Mexico.  There was no immediate word on whether the team would try again this week.

The 43-year-old Baumgartner had planned to get into a capsule that would be towed into the stratosphere by a massive 170-meter-tall helium balloon.  

He then planned to jump from the capsule, 37 kilometers above ground, and free fall before deploying a parachute.  The entire jump was expected to take about 10 minutes.

However, in a statement on the team's website, organizers said wind gusts had made the attempt too risky.  

In addition to becoming the first person to break the sound barrier, Baumgartner had hoped to set records for the highest and longest free falls.

The planned skydive poses a number of risks.  Any damage to Baumgartner's pressurized suit could expose him to extreme temperatures and a lack of oxygen.  Also, the thin air at the jump altitude would make it difficult for him to control his dive.

Baumgartner, a former military parachutist, is a helicopter pilot.  He has been preparing for the jump for five years.

The jump had been delayed from Monday because of a cold front moving through the area.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.