Felix Baumgartner forced to postpone record-breaking 23-mile skydive

Jump could take place on Thursday at the earliest.

Felix Baumgartner, an Australian daredevil and helicopter pilot, was forced to temporarily abort the 120,000ft sky-dive due to high winds.

The mission, which is sponsored by Red Bull, would break a number of world records, including the highest manned balloon flight and the longest free-fall.

More importantly, the 48-year-old ex-paratrooper was expected to become the first man to ever break the sound barrier (690mph) in free-fall during the 10 minute descent.

"Fearless Felix” had also hoped to shatter the 102,800ft (19.5 miles) milestone set by former US Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger (now a key member of Baumgartner’s team) in 1960, and looked on course to do so after two successful test runs at 15 and 18 miles in March and July.

But whilst Felix strapped himself into the launch capsule just minutes before take-off, high winds whipped across the 55-storey balloon, forcing mission control to abort.

"That was a total disappointment, honestly. But as long as we have a spare balloon, and as long as we have more launch opportunities, I’m good”, Baumgartner said afterwards.

“We’ve made it so far, there’s no way we’re turning back”, he later declared on the mission’s official twitter feed.

Team spokeswoman Sarah Anderson ruled out a fresh launch attempt until Thursday at the very earliest, but gloomy weather forecasts may push back the launch date further.

The balloon used on Tuesday’s failed attempt is not re-usable, meaning that the team has just one more attempt left, since they only have one $250,000 back-up balloon.

Here’s the video of Joe Kittinger’s awe-inspiring 102,800ft jump in 1960:

Felix Baumgartner prepares to jump 80,000ft during a test jump in March. Photo: Getty/Red Bull

Alex Ward is a London-based freelance journalist who has previously worked for the Times & the Press Association. Twitter: @alexward3000

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French presidential election: Macron and Le Pen projected to reach run-off

The centrist former economy minister and the far-right leader are set to contest the run-off on 7 May.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will contest the run-off of the French presidential election, according to the first official projection of the first-round result.

Macron, the maverick former economy minister, running under the banner of his centrist En Marche! movement, is projected to finish first with an estimated 23.7 per cent of the vote, putting him marginally ahead of Le Pen. The leader of the far-right Front National is estimated to have won 21.7 per cent, with the scandal-hit Républicain François Fillon and the left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon tied for third on an estimated 19.5 per cent each. Benoît Hamon, of the governing Socialist Party, is set to finish a distant fourth on just 6.2 per cent. Pollsters Ifop project a turnout of around 81 per cent, slightly up on 2012.

Macron and Le Pen will now likely advance to the run-off on 7 May. Recent polling has consistently indicated that Macron, who at 39 would be the youngest candidate ever to win the French presidency, would probably beat Le Pen with roughly 60 per cent of the vote to her 40. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, he told Agence France Presse that his En Marche! was "turning a page in French political history", and went on to say his candidacy has fundamentally realigned French politics. "To all those who have accompanied me since April 2016, in founding and bringing En Marche! to life, I would like to say this," he told supporters. " 'In the space of a year, we have changed the face of French political life.' "

Le Pen similarly hailed a "historic" result. In a speech peppered with anti-establishment rhetoric, she said: "The first step that should lead the French people to the Élysée has been taken. This is a historic result.

"It is also an act of French pride, the act of a people lifting their heads. It will have escaped no one that the system tried by every means possible to stifle the great political debate that must now take place. The French people now have a very simple choice: either we continue on the path to complete deregulation, or you choose France.

"You now have the chance to choose real change. This is what I propose: real change. It is time to liberate the French nation from arrogant elites who want to dictate how it must behave. Because yes, I am the candidate of the people."

The projected result means the run-off will be contested by two candidates from outside France's establishment left and right parties for the first time in French political history. Should Le Pen advance to the second round as projected, it will mark only the second time a candidate from her party has reached the run-off. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reached the second round in 2002, but was decisively beaten by Jacques Chirac after left-wingers and other mainstream voters coalesced in a so-called front républicain to defeat the far right.

Fillon has conceded defeat and backed Macron, as have Hamon and the French prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. "We have to choose what is best for our country," Fillon said. "Abstention is not in my genes, above all when an extremist party is close to power. The Front National is well known for its violence and its intolerance, and its programme would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos.

"Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron. I consider it my duty to tell you this frankly. It is up to you to reflect on what is best for your country, and for your children."

Though Hamon acknowledged that the favourite a former investment banker – was no left-winger, he said: "I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

Mélenchon, however, has refused to endorse Macron, and urged voters to consult their own consciences ahead of next month's run-off.

The announcement sparked ugly scenes in Paris in the Place de la Bastille, where riot police have deployed tear gas on crowds gathered to protest Le Pen's second-place finish. Reaction from the markets was decidedly warmer: the euro hit a five-month high after the projection was announced.

Now read Pauline Bock on the candidate most likely to win, and the NS'profiles of Macron and Le Pen.

 

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.

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