Leaping from the edge of space in a 5-minute sound barrier-breaking free fall, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner is to join the club of men that lived their life in a constant pursuit of limit that led them to set some of the most incredible world records.
Baumgartner, 43, will plummet from a special balloon-hoisted capsule 23 miles (120,000 ft) in the air, wearing a pressurised suit, speed up to 690mph before to open his parachute and land in the New Mexico desert.
If successful, the Austrian will set the world records for the highest and fastest skydive.
Baumgartner is not the first man that tries to challenge the skies and the human body's flying limits. According to ancient Greek mythology, the forefather of flying men was Icarus, the son of a fine craftsman detained in the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete. To gain his freedom, Icarus wore a pair of wax wing his father built and flew away from the Mediterranean Island.
Unfortunately Icarus didn't pay attention to his father teachings and flew too close to the sun, so that his wings melted and he eventually died, crashing down to heart.
Icarus legend was of declared inspiration to one of the most famous flying-men of all times, Patrick de Gayardon, whose fortune was tearfully similar to that of his ancient precursor.
Born in Paris, France, de Gayardon developed the flying wingsuit used by skysurfers to soar across the blue and prolong the duration of their free fall. In the 90s' the Frenchman recorded an impressive number of stunts. He famously set the record for the highest skydive without oxygen breathing system, skysurfed over the North Pole and managed to leap from a plane just to fly back on board with his wings prototype.
His dream of flying and not just diving cost de Gayardon his life. In 1998 before a test launch over the Hawaii he modified his wing suit to better its flying performance but to do so he also had to adjust its parachute. The latter change proved to be fatal.
At the end of a breath-taking dive over the Pacific Archipelago, Patrick opened his main parachute but this got entangled with his body harness and then to the emergency chute. De Gayardon fell down in a twine of ropes just as a bird in a net.
Englishman Gary Connery decided to eliminate the problem eliminating the parachute.
Earlier this year Connely, 42-year-old, used a wingsuit developed from de Gayardon's prototype to make a 2,400 feet descent, and land without opening a parachute.
He leaped form a helicopter over Oxfordshire, opened wide his arms and smoothly soared down to land.
"It was bliss, I feel elate," he said after he walked his way out of the pile of 18,600 cardboard boxes he rolled on to muffle the rught landing.
Japanese-American Dan Osman spent his life trying to climb up to the sky, not falling from it, although he also enjoyed the latter practice.
A world famous extreme sports practitioner, Osman once free climbed the 400 feet Bear's Reach route on the vertical Lover's Leap rock in California almost running. He set a record time of four minute and 25 seconds and the video of him rushing to the top with his long black horsetail hair shacking frantically behind his back, soon became a YouTube hit.
Osman was also one of the founders of rope jumping. A practice that consists in jumping several hundred feet from a cliff, for then being pulled up and rescued by a safety rope. As de Gayardon, Osman died in 1998. He was betrayed by a safety rope that broke, as he jumped from the Leaning Tower rock formation in Yosemite National Park. He was 35 years old.
South African engineer Nuno Gomes chose the abyss as scenario for his challenge to the nature. In 2003 he descended the Red Sea off Egypt coast reaching a record depth of of 1,044 feet (318.25 m).
The plunge lasted 14 minutes but it took him other 12 hours to complete the decompression and re-emerge from the waters.
Differently from the others, Nikolas "Nik" Wallenda seeks the thrill and set his record simply walking. In June Wallenda, 33, made history as he walcked the 550 meters that separate Canada and the US in 25 minutes. He did so balanced on a tightrope hanged 220 feet over the Niagara Falls.
To his disappointment Wallenda had to wear a safety harness for the walk is order to be given the go-ahead for his deed.
Today it is Felix Baumgartner's turn to face human limits and possibly defeat them, at the speed of sound.