Daredevil to free-fall from edge of space

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After some minor speed bumps, daredevil adventurer Felix Baumgartner's plans to plunge 23 miles from the edge of space back to Earth is finally coming to fruition.

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"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 on Tuesday.

With air temperatures of -70F, 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," the 42-year-old Austrian said. "I have a passion for aviation, and I love working on things that start from scratch," he explained.

In the process of his leap from a helium balloon, a Red Bull-sponsored stunt that would be the world's highest free-fall, Baumgartner hopes to become the first parachutist to break the sound barrier, plummeting toward the ground at 760 mph.

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.

The attempt has required the development of 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.

The current free-fall record is held by former US Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, who jumped from 102,800 feet, or more than 19 miles high, in 1960 from the Excelsior III, a gondola lifted by helium balloons, AFP reported.

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