ROSWELL, N.M. — Blame it on the wind. Again.
For the second consecutive day, extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner canceled his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall because of the weather, delaying his quest to become the world’s first supersonic skydiver until at least Thursday.
As he sat Tuesday morning in the pressurized capsule waiting for a 55-story, ultra-thin helium balloon to fill and carry him into the stratosphere, a 25 mph gust rushed across a field near the airport in Roswell, N.M.
The wind rushed so fast that it spun the still-inflating balloon as if it were a giant plastic grocery bag, raising concerns at mission control about whether it was damaged.
The balloon is so delicate that it can take off only if winds are 2 mph or below on the ground.
“Not knowing if the winds would continue or not, we made the decision to pull the plug,” mission technical director Art Thompson said.
Baumgartner’s team said he has a second balloon and intends to try again. Thompson said the earliest the team could try would be Thursday because of weather and the need for the crew — which worked all night Monday — to rest.
The cancellation came a day after organizers postponed the launch because of high winds. They scheduled the Tuesday launch for 6:30 a.m. near the flat dusty town best known for a rumored UFO landing in 1947.
When winds died down, Baumgartner, 43, suited up and entered the capsule. Crews began filling the balloon. A live online video feed showed a crane holding the silver capsule off the ground.
The team’s discovery that it had lost one of two radios in the capsule and a problem with the capsule itself delayed the decision to begin filling the balloon, pushing the mission close to a noon cutoff for launch.
“It was just a situation where it took too long,” mission meteorologist Don Day said.
While Baumgartner hopes to set four new world records in all when he jumps, his free fall should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents.
Spacesuits are certified to protect astronauts to 100,000 feet, the level former Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger reached in his 1960 free-fall record from 19.5 miles. Kittinger’s speed of 614 mph was shy of breaking the sound barrier at that altitude.
Baumgartner expects to hit 690 mph.
, if and when the wind cooperates to give him the chance to jump.