"Red Bull Stratos is an opportunity to gather information that could contribute to the development of life-saving measures for astronauts and pilots—and maybe for the space tourists of tomorrow," Baumgartner said in a statement before his leap. "Proving that a human can break the speed of sound in the stratosphere and return to Earth would be a step toward creating near-space bailout procedures that currently don’t exist."
Liftoff for Red Bull Stratos
Baumgartner's 55-story helium-filled balloon lifted off from Roswell, N.M. around 9:30 a.m. local time today (11:30 a.m. EDT; 1530 GMT), carrying the daredevil aloft in his custom-built 2,900-pound (1,315 kilograms) capsule.
The balloon was originally supposed to take off Monday (October 8), but that launch, and another attempt Tuesday (October 9), were called off because of gusting winds. Even moderate breezes can damage the enormous balloon, which is made of material 10 times thinner than a plastic sandwich bag, Red Bull Stratos officials have said.
Some of the daredevil's close friends and family—including his parents, Felix and Eva—made the trip from Austria to witness his record-breaking leap, mission officials said.
"I know he is perfectly prepared," Eva Baumgartner said in a statement before her son's jump, which he had spent five years readying for. "I am happy that he can do this; he worked hard for it. It is his childhood dream coming true."
Baumgartner worked up to today's leap in a stepwise fashion, jumping from 71,581 feet (21,818 m) this past March and then from 97,146 feet (29,610 m) on July 25.
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