Felix Baumgartner set for supersonic skydive attempt

Felix Baumgartner to jump from the edge of space

A while ago we published a story on Felix Baumgartner, the skydiver who's going to jump from the edge of space. Months down the line, the day is finally upon us, and within the next few hours he is either going to be hailed a hero, a pioneer of pushing boundaries to the limit... or he is going to die a horrible death.

Felix Baumgartner, from Austria, will attempt to become the first human to break the sound barrier. As in, HE will be the first human to beak the sound barrier - completely unaided by vehicles or support.

The Austrian will jump out of a space capsule 23 miles (37 kilometres) above Roswell, New Mexico, with a live video feed following his progress.

The 43-year-old, who has spent five years preparing for his supersonic challenge, said: "It has always been a dream of mine."

'Fearless Felix' will accelerate beyond about 690mph within 40 seconds and will free-fall for almost ten minutes.

Felix Baumgartner is a pioneer for the Red Bull Stratos project

However, there are a number of risks invovled: 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."

If during free-fall, he goes into a spin, he could end up spinning out at 3 or 4 revolutions a second, most likely knocking him unconscious and potentially causing his eyes and brain to explode, killing him horribly.

No man has ever experienced the power of a sonic boom directly onto his unprotected body, scientists believe he should be safe enough, but nobody really knows what affect this could have on the human body. There's no doubt about it, Felix is really laying his life on the line for something that he loves.

Others who have tried to break the existing records for the highest, fastest and longest freefalls have lost their lives in the process.

"If something goes wrong, the only thing that might help you is God," Felix told the BBC.

"Because if you run out of luck, if you run out of skills, there is nothing left and you have to really hope he is not going to let you down."

Red Bull, which is sponsoring the feat, has been promoting a live Internet stream of the event at their website 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.

And while Felix hopes to set four new world records, his free fall is more than just a stunt.

His dive from the stratosphere should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents.

Ahead of his grand finale, he has completed a couple of high-altitude dress rehearsals. In July, he leapt from 96,640ft - just 6,000ft shy of a world record set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, a U.S. air force test pilot.

The grandfather of stratosphere skydiving, 84-year-old Colonel Kittinger has become Felix's mentor and will be the voice he hears in his headset as he communicates with mission control before and during the jump.

Red Bull Stratos announced on Friday that the jump had been moved from Monday to today due to a cold front with gusty winds.

The jump can only be made if winds on the ground are under 2 mph for the initial launch - a balloon carrying Felix.

Weather permitting, lift-off from Roswell airport should occur about 07:00 local time (13:00 GMT; 14:00BST).

Felix, a former military parachutist and extreme athlete, has jumped more than 2,500 times from planes and helicopters, as well as from skyscrapers and landmarks, including the 101-story Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

This is hopefully what Felix will look like after his jump

Felix says his supersonic plunge will be the end of his 'journey' as a daredevil.

He intends to retire with his girlfriend and settle down to a quiet life - which in his case means becoming a rescue helicopter pilot.

Felix, all we can say from GYHQ, is god speed...

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If you're interested in adrenaline and extreme activities on your gap year then head on over to our adrenaline and extreme section to find out exactly what you can do...

Photos supplied by AFP / Getty and the Red Bull Stratos Project