Science & Environment

Space jumper hails boyhood hero

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Media captionFelix Baumgartner and Joe Kittinger on their record-breaking jumps from high in the Earth's atmosphere

In a few months time, Felix Baumgartner plans to jumps from a balloon 36.5 km (120,000 ft) up in the atmosphere.

If he succeeds, he will have beaten a record set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, who leapt out from a balloon at 31km (102,800ft).

Kittinger is part of Mr Baumgartner's team and the former US Air Force Colonel tells me that he is "delighted" that Baumgartner, who has now become a close friend, will be breaking his record.

"I've been working four years to make that happen. My job is to make sure he gets down safely," he says.

Col Kittinger has worked on all aspects of the programme for the past four years, from the design of the equipment to developing skydiving techniques with Mr Baumgartner. And the daring Austrian adventurer admits that he is a little in awe of his mentor.

"When I was a young skydiver, Joe Kittinger was my childhood hero. If you are a young skydiver you look up to him. He's the highest and fastest skydiver in the world and he's the benchmark," Mr Baumgartner told BBC News.

The record breaking attempt is due to take place sometime between July and September in the desert of New Mexico.

During the ascent of the giant balloon which will take Mr Baumgartner into the icy cold atmosphere and during the freefall, Col Kittinger's role will be to act as the point of contact between the mission control team and Felix Baumgartner.

And the man nicknamed by his team as "Fearless Felix" admits that he's glad to have is friend and mentor at his side

"I feel a lot safer because, when I'm up there, Joe Kittinger's voice is my only connection to the world. The only voice on the ground I hear is Joe Kittinger's and I feel a lot safer because he's been there and done that," Mr Baumgartner told BBC News.

A BBC/National Geographic documentary is also being made about the project.

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