ROSWELL, N.M. -- It's described as a "40-acre dry cleaner bag," that, when first filled, will stretch 55 stories high.
On Tuesday, this special ultra-thin helium balloon is scheduled to lift off from Roswell, N.M., to carry Felix Baumgartner 23 miles into the stratosphere for what he hopes will be a history-making, sound barrier-breaking skydive.
WHAT'S THE BALLOON MADE OF?
Strips of plastic film that are 0.0008 inches thick, or thinner than a Ziploc bag. If laid flat, this plastic would cover 40 acres.
WHO MADE IT?
ATA Aerospace of Albuquerque. Company officials said they were not authorized by Red Bull Stratos, which is funding the jump, to talk to the media. A fact sheet says it is designed after previous balloons used for over 60 years on high-altitude flights.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Helium balloons can easily be torn by the wind, so the launch will not take place unless wind speeds are less than 2 mph.
HAS IT BEEN TESTED?
No. Balloons of this type are so delicate that once out of the box they must be used immediately. The launch crew must wear clothing that can't snag it. Handlers must wear cotton gloves. Balloons used in test jumps were similar but smaller because they didn't have to go as high.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Helium is lighter than air, so the size depends on the weight of the payload and the altitude it must reach.
HOW BIG IS IT?
It can hold nearly 30 million cubic feet of helium, enough to hoist the 3,000-pound capsule carrying Baumgartner.
HOW LONG IS THE ASCENT?
2.5 to 3 hours.
WHAT HAPPENS TO IT AFTER?
It will be separated from the capsule and parachute to earth.
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