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Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Red Bull Stratos aborted

By Brian Tunney
ESPN.com

Felix Baumgartner
Felix Baumgartner in the Red Bull Stratos capsule earlier this week.

"I am strapped into the capsule, and I am ready to go," said Austrian skydive professional Felix Baumgartner from inside the pressurized Red Bull Stratos capsule at approximately 11:30 a.m. MT Tuesday from Roswell, N.M.

Outside, the Red Bull Stratos team began the careful inflation of the 55-story Red Bull Stratos high-altitude helium balloon in preparation for a Tuesday afternoon launch. The plan -- for Baumgartner to rise 120,000 feet (23 miles) above the atmosphere and free-fall skydive back to Earth, breaking the sound barrier in the process.

Baumgartner, 43, a resident of Salzburg, Austria, and seasoned high-altitude jumper, had spent an hour and a half "pre-breathing" before entering the Red Bull Stratos capsule, to remove any nitrogen from his body. And after two delays throughout the morning, he appeared ready to go.

As inflation continued, Baumgartner remained calm inside the Red Bull Stratos capsule. Suddenly, the live feed on the Red Bull Stratos website turned on, CNN turned their live coverage Baumgartner's way, the world began to tune in via social media, and then, the winds returned, blowing the high-altitude balloon off axis.

The 16 mph wind gusts remained for two minutes, then disappeared.

Joe Kittinger, the retired U.S. Air Force colonel who jumped from 102,800 feet in 1960 and was serving as the flight operations and safety member of the Red Bull Stratos team, sat dejected in the Red Bull Stratos control room.

The call was made to abort the launch. "Today's launch has been aborted at 11:42 MDT due to wind gusts making an attempt too risky," said mission control at Red Bull Stratos. "There is a second backup balloon but the weather may not be favorable for a launch tomorrow."

Weather permitting, the Red Bull Stratos team will analyze current weather patterns and could possibly return to the countdown process by the weekend.