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AIR SPACE

Daredevil to plunge from outer space, break sound barrier

 

Welcome to the extreme sport of space-diving.

After some minor speed bumps, Daredevil adventurer Felix Baumgartner's plans to plunge 23 miles from the edge of space back to Earth -- a Red Bull-sponsored stunt that would be the world's highest freefall -- is finally coming to fruition, the team announced Monday, Feb. 6.

“We still have a lot to do before we’re ready, before the big one, but our launch window starts in July in New Mexico,”Baumgartner told FoxNews.com.

With air temperatures of -70 F degrees, his very blood would boil if exposed to the air. So what could compel a man to make such a dangerous attempt?

"I like the challenge," Baumgartner said. "I have a passion for aviation, and I love working on things that start from scratch," he explained.

After successful rounds of vacuum chamber tests in Texas, the team is now moving to Roswell, N.M., for the mission's final phase of preparations, said Art Thompson, a team technical director who helped develop the B-2 Stealth bomber.

“The test in the chamber was a decisive moment for us. It’s as close as you can get to the near space conditions without leaving earth. We were able to verify our equipment and now we’re moving on to plan the first manned test flights,” Thompson said.

“This test was enormously important for our self-confidence. The success has given us an additional boost to rise to the challenges that still lie ahead,” Baumgartner said.

And while breaking records is important, this is also a stunt with great benefit for science. Team medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark hopes their findings can eventually have an impact on space travel and tourism.

To me, it’s the ultimate skydive.

- Felix Baumgartner

"Red Bull Stratos is testing new equipment and developing the procedures for inhabiting such high altitudes as well as enduring such extreme acceleration," Clark said. "The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists."

“We’ll be setting new standards for aviation. Never before has anyone gone supersonic without being in an aircraft," Clark added.

To do it at all required a custom supersonic spacesuit, designed by the David Clark Company, which made the first such pressurized suits to protect World War II fighters during high-speed maneuvers.

In the process of his leap, Baumgartner hopes to become the first parachutist to break the sound barrier, plummeting toward the ground at 760 miles per hour.

“This mission is all about pioneer work. Maybe one day people will look back and say it was Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team that helped to develop the suit that they’re wearing in space. We want to do something for posterity.”

"To me it’s the ultimate skydive," Baumgartner told FoxNews.com.