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The Man Who Will Free-Fall to Earth


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From over 130,000ft, the ultimate parachute jumper will break the sound barrier while on his way down

Caroline Davies

For twenty years Michel Fournier has worked towards a dream that is literally out of this world. It is to fly to the very edge of the Earth's atmosphere, experience the weightlessness and deep blackness of space, gaze down upon the Earth - and then jump.

Now the 64-year-old retired French army officer is set to fulfil it. Today, if the weather is favourable, he will attempt Le Grand Saut - The Great Leap - from almost 25 miles high up over the great plains of Saskatchewan in Canada.

His plan is to climb into the pressurised gondola of a 650ft balloon, which resembles a giant jellyfish, and make a two-hour journey up to 130,000ft. Then he will step out of the capsule and, wearing only a special spacesuit, helmet and parachute, plunge back down. It will take 15 minutes, during which he will break through the sound barrier.

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Balloon escapes as French sky-diver attempt free fall record

(CNN) -- French skydiver Michel Fournier's bid for a record-breaking parachute jump from Earth's stratosphere was aborted Tuesday when the balloon that was to carry him to the edge of space slipped away from his flight crew.


Michel Fournier tests his equipment a few days before his attempt to break four world records.

The former paratrooper had hoped his "Big Jump" -- starting 40 kilometers (25 miles) above the Earth's surface -- would set new records for the highest jump, fastest and longest free fall and the highest altitude reached by a man in a balloon.

But those hopes drifted away over the plains of Saskatchewan in Canada when the balloon escaped.

Still clad in his bright yellow pressure suit, the visibly frustrated Fournier waved away cameras after his ride slipped away shortly after 5 a.m. (1100 GMT, 0700 ET).

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