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Skydive From Edge Of Space; Baumgartner Lands On Feet; Former Senator Arlen Specter Dies; Record Breaking Space Jump; Travel And Leisure Features Beach Hotels

Aired October 14, 2012 - 13:32   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.

Happening right now, skydiver Felix Baumgartner is getting ready to skydive 23 miles above earth in an attempt to become the first person to go faster than the speed of sound. Already, he has just broken a record now ascending to the highest point of of any human -- that any human has gone in a balloon.

He is right now many, many miles above earth, roughly 105,000 feet above earth. Baumgartner is roughly, or just maybe under 10,000 feet away from his goal when he would actually leave the capsule that he is in at the bottom of that balloon that's already taken a different kind of shape. If you saw it earlier, it was kind of a tear dropped shape. Now it's becoming more, you know, of a bulb kind of shape, almost lima bean kind of formation.

You're looking at live pictures with the delay of roughly about 20 seconds of Baumgartner in that capsule. Pretty extraordinary to be able to see these kinds of images that far away. Mission control is in Roswell, New Mexico. You will be hearing some audio momentarily from them. You can also see him kind of conversing likely with mission control right now.

Brian Todd is watching this closely as is our Chad Myers here in Atlanta right now. Brian is joining us from Washington. Brian spent a good part of last week in Roswell and got to know some of the players involved in this. Chad with a very great understanding of the science behind all of this this morning, all systems are go.

There were some moments because of wind that they thought perhaps, you know, the conditions were not perfect. But in the end, it looked like perfect conditions for the ascent.

Chad, let's begin with you. Mission control very excited that already one record has been sent -- set just by virtue of the fact that he has met that goal of altitude.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, 113,800, that's above anybody else in a balloon. The two men that were in that balloon, two separate men, didn't make it back to earth safe. They died in 1961. So now this is not without threat. This is a major issue for Felix to get down from there, literally, go the speed of sound for awhile in a free fall, and then finally land with a parachute, he'll pull that chute about 5,000 feet.


MYERS: An amazing feat.

WHITFIELD: It is amazing. Roughly about an hour ago, maybe about an hour and a half ago or so ago when he began that kind of ascent. You saw the mission control people were very excited, his mom was there on the ground. She had tears in her eyes.


WHITFIELD: Tears for a number of reasons. He's been working on this for some five years, training for this moment, but it also comes with great risks.

MYERS: The risk is that as he gets to the speed of sound, the suit that he is wearing that is keeping him literally inflated from not his blood boiling because of lack of air up there, no oxygen at all, no air pressure, whatsoever, if that suit fails, he's in big trouble. If anything else fails on the way down, he is in big trouble.

This done it though -- he has done it from 18 miles high. This is five miles higher. He is planning on getting to the speed of sound in almost 20 seconds. And then as he gets to more air, that air will slow him down into the atmosphere.

People say how can he go that fast? Skydivers can't go that fast. Skydivers don't jump from space, skydivers jump where there's air out of an airplane and that air slows him down. There's no air there for right now for the first 30 seconds to slow him down.

WHITFIELD: OK. Chad, hold on. And, Brian, you hold on as well in Washington. We're going to take a short break right now. And we'll be back to talk more about Felix Baumgartner, and what he's doing and how he really is defying the odds in so many ways, shapes, forms. Dozens of miles above earth.

We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: Welcome back to this breaking story. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.

Skydiver Felix Baumgartner already setting a record going the highest any human has ever gone in a manned balloon, a helium balloon. He is now at near 120,000 feet above earth at nearly -- at 23 miles above earth, and his plan is -- you're looking at these live pictures now with delay of about 20 seconds in a capsule that's at the bottom of that helium balloon. You're looking at his perspective of earth there. You're also looking at him in that capsule as he's talking to mission control which his in Roswell, New Mexico.

With me is Chad Myers who has a great purview of this and the science backing it all as to what the goal is for Baumgartner, and then in our Washington bureau is Brian Todd who spent a good amount of time in Roswell, New Mexico, last week. He' s gotten to know the crew and all the efforts behind this.

Chad, let me get back to you quickly. We were listening to mission control. It's a familiar voice. Robert Hager who many folks remember from NBC News covering space and flight, and, you know, we're hearing him kind of explain that they're very close to that point, 120,000 feet, where I guess some assessments would be made in the capsule before Felix Baumgartner would then jump out of that capsule.

MYERS: Right.

WHITFIELD: And sky dive to earth.

MYERS: They're waiting for the balloon now to settle, it's what it's called, not go up any more. It's still rising at about 200, 300 feet per minute. Still watching that. It might get to about 125 before the equilibrium takes place. The helium trying to rise, the capsule pulling it down. That equilibrium is where all of these assessments go on, all of these preconditions go on, and then he will step on the ledge of that capsule if it all goes right and he will dive to earth.

WHITFIELD: Brian, let me bring you into this. You spent a lot of time with the crew, with Baumgartner, when you were there in Roswell, New Mexico. What is he after? Why is he doing this?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's after the record for free fall, he's after the record for breaking of the sound barrier, Fredricka, but they're also after some advancements in science, some advancements aerospace. What they want to do is test out to see if the suit that he's wearing may become the next generation of high pressure suit. And specifically they want to see if they can find out from this jump if a human being can survive outside a space vehicle for any length of time if there's a malfunction in that space vehicle in future missions.

That is really the principal goal of this mission. They also want to measure what happens to the human body when it goes through the sound barrier. They don't know that yet. This mission may tell them. They don't expect him to be battered so much. They think that the lack of air up there and the lack of pressure won't take such a huge toll on the body. But no one has ever gone speed of sound outside the protection of a vehicle. So that's another thing that they're trying to measure.

One thing we do have to tell you, Fredricka, is that on the way up in the last few minutes, they have been reporting to us from that live feed that there was at least a slight issue in the heating of his visor, that space visor on his helmet. He had been reporting -- Felix Baumgartner had been reporting that it wasn't heating as it should have been.

Now whether that's an issue in the actual jump we don't know, but that has been an issue in the last few minutes.

WHITFIELD: All right, Brian, thanks so much. In a moment, we're going to resume our conversation about Felix Baumgartner and what he's after. But first I want to also pass on this other bit of breaking news, a sizable piece of breaking news.

A political world mourning the death of Senator Arlen Specter. Specter's family says the veteran Pennsylvania lawmaker passed away at his home in Philadelphia this morning from complications of non- Hodgkin's lymphoma.

He was 82 years ago. A public funeral service is planned Tuesday in Pennsylvania.

Earlier I spoke with Candy Crowley who spent an awful lot of time on Capitol Hill, got to know him well, his politics, and he, the man, will bring you her perspective momentarily.

We're going to take a short break right now and we'll be right back after this.

All right. We're going to resume our conversation now about Felix Baumgartner and all that's taking place now roughly 23 miles above the earth's surface. You're looking at pictures on delay by about 20 seconds. And you're looking at that helium balloon which has taken an interesting shape now because of the change of the atmosphere, that helium in that thin skinned membrane.

We understand that membrane is 10 times thinner than a sandwich bag. Incredibly fragile. But it, too, has a great significance in the world of science and aeronautical engineering. An awful lot of former NASA workers were part of this project. We're also looking at this kind of double live screen now of mission control on the left hand side out of Roswell, New Mexico.

They are thrilled about the one record that has already been broken by Felix Baumgartner. He has gone the highest than any human has ever gone in a manned helium balloon. And you're looking of course on the right hand side of extraordinary live pictures, again by delay of about 20 seconds of Baumgartner in that capsule.

Brian Todd with me out of Washington, Chad Myers here in Atlanta.

So Brian, let's resume our conversation. This crew is ecstatic about that one breakthrough that has taken place and we'll try to hear what mission control is saying, too, when we hear kind of a stream of conversation there, but, Brian, give me an idea how significant that initial milestone is for this project?

TODD: Well, you know, I need to know specifically, though, Fredricka, which milestone you're talking about which --

(CROSSTALK) WHITFIELD: We're talking about -- we're talking about him going the highest than any human has ever gone in a manned balloon.

TODD: The highest. Right. That was significant. Chad talked about that record, I think it was at about 106,000 feet or so, or possibly higher than that. They're very excited about that. And the balloon has kept its integrity. So we're going to -- well, actually we can listen in to mission control right now. Let's --

WHITFIELD: Excellent.

TODD: Let's take you there.

WHITFIELD: Of course just the moment we thought they could continue that conversation when they take a pause. We'll try again and listen out for them. But, you know --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Felix, let me know --

WHITFIELD: There we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- whether we can start integrity, egress check. I need to know when to start the egress check.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER, SKYDIVER: I'll let you know. I'm back here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check the bailout bottles. Felix is back. Check his parachute handles. We'll make a little test to close off the oxygen from the capsule and try out the oxygen from bailout bottles very quickly. He'll activate the cameras on his pressure suit. He's slide back and forth in the seat he's in there, built like the slides on a car seat.

Balloon still going up, 127,000 feet now. So that is higher than 24 miles up. Then as I mentioned, depressurize the capsule in two steps. They'll depressurize it part way, at which point Baumgartner's pressure suit should automatically begin to inflate. So they do it halfway to make sure it's going to inflate. And then they dump the rest of the pressure to equalize the pressure in the capsule to what it is outside because now he'll be protected by his pressure suit. Then Felix will open the door, he'll slide the seat back and forth and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Felix, let me know when I can start the egress check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kittinger will do that exercise I mentioned where he looks at the -- on the camera to see the parachute is OK.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Confirm you're ready to start egress check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saying something there about the heat and the visor. He is getting the heat. He's getting the heat.

BAUMGARTNER: OK, sir. I'm ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Here we go, Felix. Item one. Depressurize the suit, reinstall hose and cover.

I need you to respond, Felix. Respond to my commands. Item one, depressurize suit, reinstall hose and cover.

Felix, confirm depressurize suit, reinstall hose and cover, over.

BAUMGARTNER: Suit is depressurized, hose and cover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atta boy. Item two, check bailout bottle pressure.

BAUMGARTNER: The bailout bottle is looking good. The needle is (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Check location and security of all four parachute handles.

WHITFIELD: All right, you're listening to mission control, and they're doing a check for Baumgartner right now, making sure everything is a go while he's in the capsule before he actually makes his jump from that capsule. Everything from that four parachute handle check you just heard right there, you heard them talking about activating cameras as well, and that that the pressure suit should inflate.

Chad Myers with me along with Brian Todd who's in Washington. Brian is spending a good amount of time there in Roswell, New Mexico last week, which was the first scheduled jump but it was scrubbed mostly because the conditions just were not optimal, correct?

TODD: That's right, Fredricka. The conditions on the ground really kind of crept up on them unexpectedly. They were going to launch this mission on Tuesday, that the -- 9th of October, and it just -- it got scrubbed at the very last minute. I mean they were literally just a few minutes from launching the balloon. It got scrubbed because an unexpected gust of wind came along -- on the surface and really whipped that balloon around in kind of a spinnaker motion. It really compromised the balloon.

They had to basically scrap it at that point. And they told us afterwards that it would be a couple of days, at least, when they were measuring ahead, and the weather and the wind, everything like that until they could launch the mission. They had one backup balloon. They had to bring that in and now they were successful today in launching that backup balloon. So it's good that they've got it off today. They said it might be, quote, "some weeks," if they had not launched it today until they could launch it again.

WHITFIELD: Now there are a few things that mission control wants to be cognitive of during this check right now. A, they want to make sure the equipment is working, but at the same time they want to see and hear from Felix Baumgartner, that he has the wherewithal to be able to follow their instructions.

What are you hearing that's important here in their dialogue?

TODD: Well, it was interesting, just a few minutes ago, Joe Kittinger, who's record he's trying to break, Joe Kittinger, who's been in his ear from the moment he took of this morning, said, you know, we're going to go through what we call the egress checks right now. That's the last checks of the capsule and all of his systems, the suit before he steps off. He told me, Felix told me some months ago, that he's got 43 checks to make when he gets to floating altitude before he can actually just make his jump. Forty-three checks.

So they're going through egress checks right now, and interestingly a few minutes ago when they started them, Felix Baumgartner didn't quite respond in the few few seconds to Joe Kittinger's, you know, saying, OK, let's go through step one. Check one. And he said, Felix, I need you to respond to me, then we heard Felix respond to him.

So it's interesting. I thought for a second there could be a radio problem. That wasn't the case. Maybe Felix was just doing something that preoccupied him. But as you can see, every little thing that is going on right now is being measured and monitored by all of us. It's very exciting.

WHITFIELD: All right, Brian, thanks so much. I know you're going to leave the set for a moment to do some reporting.

Chad, I want to bring you in. Your instincts said the same thing when you heard about that delay, you know, just as Brian just kind of outlined there.


WHITFIELD: He didn't respond -- Felix didn't respond at first to mission control. This kind of set off a couple of alarm bells for you as well. Why?

MYERS: It sure did. I was wondering whether the 20-second delay was enough at that point. He has been up there and that -- and even though the capsule is pressurized and he's been breathing oxygen, it's only pressurized to about 20,000 feet. So he is almost -- you know, three-quarters of the way up at the top of Mt. Everest, all of the way up there for the past couple of hours breathing in this pure oxygen.

They have to get all of the nitrogen out of his system, the same way you want to get the nitrogen out of your system when you're a scuba diver. You don't want to come up too quickly or you'll get the --


WHITFIELD: Decompression, very important.

MYERS: That is exactly the same thing that Todd was talking about there.

That balloon that you're seeing, you're saying how it has changed shape. That balloon now has the volume of six Madison Square Gardens combined in helium, and it is now at 127,800 feet, getting to equilibrium, not going up or down very much at this point. He is probably at about step 20 pressurized suit, check the pressure, make sure that your mask is down, make sure that your straps are tight on your helmet. These are all of the steps that they have to go through before he opens that door, steps out on the ledge and jumps out.

WHITFIELD: And it sounds like it's painstaking. It has to be. So much at stake here. Forty-three checks alone on just his flight suit.

MYERS: You know we're calling this mission control and that's what it is. But this is a private enterprise mission control. He's not talking to Houston. He's not talking to Cape Canaveral. He's not talking to --

WHITFIELD: Although a lot of folks on the ground are familiar with those territories.

MYERS: Well, and have worked there in the past, yes. He's just not jumping out on his own.

WHITFIELD: But this is a commercial enterprise.

MYERS: This is an enterprise here not backed by the U.S. government. I've been talking to some other members and they're going, wow. This is -- this is something. You know, this is something that we might not do so quickly. He has -- Felix has jumped so many times. This guy jumped off the arm of the concrete price in Rio de Janeiro as a base jumper. He's 43 years old but he's not just somebody who's a thrill seeker or -- they wouldn't let him do this.

WHITFIELD: Well, what is he then? Because that is what one thinks is that he's a daredevil, a thrill seeker. You know that he is someone who was, you know, setting out to get a lot of attention, doing things -- extraordinary things most of us would not.

MYERS: First of all, he's a helicopter pilot. And not being a pilot and not having that training, then all of a sudden this would never have happened. He would never have had received the health that he got from the ground and from the people with the know-how.

WHITFIELD: Major financial back --

MYERS: They would have said -- even without -- the money, of course, but the know-how. They would -- the people with the know-how wouldn't have helped him. No, we're not going to help you dive. Absolutely not. You are not trained for this. So on and so on. But he did train. He trained for five solid years to do this, getting higher and higher and higher in his jumps. The last jump he did in July was from 18 miles. So now at 127.6 or 127.7, we're well above 24. This is even farther than he thought. They knew he would equalize somewhere between 20 -- 120 and 130, and that's where we are right now.

WHITFIELD: So he is a big believer in this mission, and clearly all those involved, thousands of people, many of whom have spent their careers in aeronautical engineering, space flight, science, NASA. They are big believers here, too. What is the mission? What are they hoping to gain? What knowledge, what technology, what look into the future are they hoping to gain from this mission alone?

MYERS: Let me tell you, we are going to have space tours in the not so distant future. You know that sounded ridiculous 10 years ago that someone would put you in a rocket, take you to space 60 miles high and then float back down. They are hoping that this suit that has been developed could save those people in case of a catastrophic event.

If they had to bail out of that aircraft at 18, 20, 200, whatever the number of miles that they get to, could this suit save their life? And that's what they're getting. And what happens to him when he does reach the speed of sound?

Now there won't be much air where he reaches the speed of sound. Certainly different than an aircraft, different than a fighter pilot getting to the speed of sound. But he is going to get there. Will there be some effect on the body, on the shaking, whatever it might be on his way down.

WHITFIELD: So, Chad, kind of take me through the real tick-tock of the timeline of this. You know they were on the ground for a period of days, you know, preparing for this moment. The conditions were right even though they were talking about 100-plus miles per hour at 30,000 feet. That actually was optimal for them because of the thinness of that air and how that helium balloon would be able to handle the environment.

Once they made the decision that all systems go, ascension is good, give me an idea of what took place from there. It wasn't an immediate ascension, it takes time, maybe an hour, hour and a half, and then what are they looking for and what have they -- what has been the process?

MYERS: The process -- the hardest part of the process is actually on the ground. Getting the winds to die off between zero, which is the surface, and 700 feet above the surface. That's how tall that balloon is. They can't have and couldn't have that balloon blowing down wind at 30 miles per hour and all of a sudden Felix is taking and dragging down the tarmac rather than going straight up.

That was the first thing they had to do. That's what they didn't get to about -- I don't know 10:30 or so on that pre-plan, on Tuesday. That was the issue there. They had -- the balloon hit the ground. This balloon, we're talking about this balloon that they ruined on Tuesday, was over a quarter of a million dollars. So -- and it's trashed, it's done. This balloon is the thickness of a baggie that you get from the cleaners, yet it still weighs 3700 pounds.

Think about how many baggies it would take from the cleaners to get to almost 4,000 pounds of baggies, right? So that's how big this balloon is. It is massive. It is (INAUDIBLE).

Let's just get some of this audio here because I hate talking over this. People at home going, would you please just be quiet? Let's just see where they are. I like to see where they are here.

WHITFIELD: All right.

MYERS: And there we go.


WHITFIELD: There we go. All right. For those of you who are just joining us, you are looking at live pictures. Even though there's about a 20-second delay. It's remarkable to be able to see these images with this kind of immediacy, 23 miles up into the air. And this is Felix Baumgartner. He is a skydiver. You heard Chad describe he's done an awful lot of things, you know, but he's more than a daredevil. He really is a risk taker for the sake of science.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Felix is depressurizing the stratus capsule to (INAUDIBLE) offsite, parametric pressure, he's at altitude of 127,900 feet.

WHITFIELD: Mission control there in Roswell, New Mexico, talking to him and talking to us.

MYERS: He can't open that capsule pressurized. So that's why he's depressurized so that he can screw the handle and open the door.

WHITFIELD: They've done a number of checks that they've had Felix Baumgartner go through. They've practiced this a billion times on the ground. Now it's the real thing, having him check his space suit, make sure that everything is locked and ready to go, making sure his helmet is attached the right way before they're to open that capsule and he is to actually make that descent jumping, skydiving, 23 miles in the air to the earth's surface. We already know that he's broken one record going the highest than any human has ever gone in a manned balloon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're only at 100,000 feet. You still got 28,000 feet to go. The door will open when you reach ambient altitude of 128,000 feet, and right now you're at about 100,000 feet. You got about 28,000 feet more to go. Just keep dumping the pressure and the door will open.

WHITFIELD: OK, you're listening to mission control in Roswell, New Mexico. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. Chad Myers is with me in Atlanta as well.

You are listening to an extraordinary feat here. You just heard mission control in Roswell, New Mexico, telling skydiver Felix Baumgartner that he has about 28,000 feet to go before the capsule he is in, you're seeing it on the right-hand side of your screen, with about a 20-second delay.

Live pictures before the door to that capsule opens, and that he, fitted with an incredible space suit and parachute, will actually jump out of that capsule and descend to earth.

His objective here, of course, to be the first human to travel the speed of sound, again, this is a 20-second delay. You're listening to mission control have this talk with him. They've done an incredible check for his space suit there, 43 checks to make sure that all systems are go. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're still releasing the pressure from inside the capsule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, you're at about 112,000 feet now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're releasing the pressure so the door will open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has an emergency suit that if he were to tumble too fast, too many G forces, it would automatically deploy. So that's another thing to watch for.

If you don't see an emergency chute come out in the first minutes of this jump, that's a very good sign. So the good signs would be no wild-looking tumble or spin and no chute suddenly coming out.

So then because that air is so thin, that's the point at which they expect that he will break through the sound barrier. Maybe 30 seconds after he drops off, he will gradually, and in the beginning he has no control at all, but towards the second half, he begins to get a little control. He'll try to put his head down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put the dump valve all the way to the rear. Put the dump valve all the way to the rear. There it is. There's the world out there. Roll the door open and use the door stop, Felix.

WHITFIELD: Incredible these images. That capsule opening up as it would when they reach their optimal altitude there. Felix Baumgartner is attempting to be the first human to break the sound barrier when he jumps out that far capsule with a parachute.

You heard Bob Hager, if you recall his voice, he has a very recognizable voice formal early of NBC News, and there you're now seeing Felix Baumgartner get to the edge of that capsule for his descent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 29, release the seat belt, boy. That's good. Slide forward into the rest position. Go a little bit further forward so we can check your chute. Your chute's OK, Felix. I'll say it again, item 31. Your chute is checked, your parachute is not deployed.

Item 32, Verify cut away knife. Handle strap is attached, the knife in proposition. Say roger if it is so.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure the light is on. You got a red light.

BAUMGARTNER: The light is on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Item 34, disconnect chest pack umbilical. OK, do you read me, Felix, on the communications? Felix, give me a short count. OK, stow umbilical. Disconnect both oxygen supply hoses.

OK, are they disconnected? Give me a thumbs up if they're disconnected. They're still connected. Felix, disconnect the oxygen hose. All right, stand up on the exterior step.

Keep your head down. Release the helmet tie-down strap. Start the cameras and our guardian angel will take care of you.

BAUMGARTNER: I'm ready now. (Inaudible). I look really high. How small you are?

WHITFIELD: My goodness, extraordinary. I think everybody's heart is just beating so fast to see Felix Baumgartner make that incredible attempt now. We've gone away from that live picture now during his descent 23 miles above earth.

He is free falling. He's already the first human to go the highest of any human in a manned balloon, and now after all those incredible checks and sweat hours put on by thousands of people, you saw him disconnecting his oxygen, disconnecting the umbilical while in that capsule, and then making that descent to earth.

Chad Myers with me now. What an extraordinary moment. And how extraordinary, too, to hear Felix Baumgartner's words, the only ones that I could make out at the very beginning was that the whole world is watching.

To have the wherewithal to do all the checks and to still be able to communicate verbally what he's about to do as he is looking down at earth.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Really, I have nothing for that. When I watched, it almost felt like I was jumping as well. It really -- they brought it completely home as to what was happening to him and how far he went and quickly how he became such a small dot.

Here's the launch. We back you up to the launch. This was almost three hours ago now. They filled the balloon. The balloon that literally once it's started, you cannot stop. They had one chance to do this before months and months of more planning and delays.

So here they go. They fill it up. As it goes up into the sky, they take this crane. They drive the crane under the balloon so that the balloon would rise completely through the verticals and not at all drag along the ground.

Cheers everywhere at this point in time. Chills at CNN as we watched this happen.

WHITFIELD: There is his mother, Eva. She is crying. This is the first time ever leaving Europe.


WHITFIELD: And she is seeing her son make this incredible attempt. Go ahead with the sequence of events.

MYERS: Well, he then obviously he goes up. It took a very long time. It took longer than we really thought because many times he slowed to maybe only 100 feet per minute going up.

As he was going up so slowly, we thought, boy, I hope there's enough helium in this balloon. As it turned out, the atmosphere was very cold not allowing the balloon to expand very much and that's why he was slowing down.

WHITFIELD: That was the hiccup that made people nervous.

MYERS: It made me a little nervous, but he kept dumping ballast. There was ballast in the balloon, so the more ballast he dumped out, the faster he went up.

Finally stopped throwing out the ballast, 100,000 feet in the sky, slowed down at about 125, finally stopped at 128,000 feet and that's where that jump took place.

WHITFIELD: Unbelievable and you're looking at these graphics here showing what his descent might be like, and you kind of think, my gosh, crazy, but then you replace that word with courage when you hear the kind of dialogue that was taking place during that capsule, the careful checks.

They're looking out for one another just as you would witness during any NASA flight that you've ever witnessed, and this kind of family that comes together for this common goal for the sake of science, for the sake of, you know, human exploration.

And in this case, this is not just an experiment, there is purpose here, too, just as you would see with any NASA experiment, and you explained it so eloquently earlier what they're hoping to gain from this.

MYERS: Can a person in space falling from a crippled aircraft, one of those things that may take space tours into the sky 10, 20 years from now, can those people survive? Can there be an ejection seat of 16 miles high?

Can this suit, can this pressurization, can this texture of the suit so make him free fall like this in a nose down position go greater than the speed of sound and pull the chute at 5,000 feet and float to the ground.

We are not showing live pictures right now for a reason. We will show live pictures when Felix gets on the ground and starts to walk away. That's when we're coming back to this.

OK so that's where we are now. Felix is about three and a half, four minutes into the free fall and things are looking really, really good.

WHITFIELD: And how long do we think that free fall will last? What have they estimated, given --

MYERS: He's done. He's done with the free fall. He has pulled the first chute.

WHITFIELD: Really. And we also heard during mission control that conversation if for some reason he didn't have the wherewithal to pull that chute himself, there was an automatic parachute, a great safety measure, safety net.

MYERS: Not just the threat or really the risk of him falling through space and breaking the suit that was obviously one of the big risks. If at that speed, for some reason he became into a spin, spinning around uncontrollably at 3.5 G's, that blood would be pushed into his head and pushed into his feet.

The exact opposite problem that these fighter pilots have when they pull positive G's and all the blood leaves their head. When you're spinning like this, there would be blood in your head. At 3.5 G's, a drogue chute would open.

That drogue chute, to be honest, on his foot to slow that rate of spin down to stop him literally from all the blood getting into his head and bad things happen.

WHITFIELD: OK, and right now, in delay, we are actually seeing that parachute, that descent of Felix Baumgartner. Standing right there, that was his mother who is smiling there, fewer tears right now. She looks quite relieved.

Mom Ava there along with some of the other crew members, all of those who have helped make this happen, but again, you're seeing that little cloudy picture of that parachute on the descent of skydiver Felix Baumgartner who has left that capsule 23 miles above earth and now in the atmosphere for all to see.

Let's listen in to mission control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't find you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind is out of the north 5 to 10.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here. I'm facing a big tower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind is out of the east, Tom.

WHITFIELD: This is extraordinary. The tears in the eyes of all those who are watching and Brian Todd is joining us from Washington now.

Brian, you had a lot of time that you spent with the crew, and you've gotten to know Felix Baumgartner, too, and this is an incredible, extraordinary feat here. What are your impressions?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is incredible. I was worried for him a few moments ago right after the jump, Fredricka, right after he stepped off, you could see him spinning. That was somewhat expected, some spinning, but when I saw him spinning, it looked a little worrisome, but he stabilized very quickly.

When he stabilized, you heard cheers from mission control. He free fell a few minutes after that. While he is free falling he was talking to mission control, they were talking to him. Everything was fine, stable.

When he opened his chute, you heard more cheers going up. He just communicated to mission control. I'm facing that big tower. Of course, we don't know exactly which big tower he's looking about.

But if you can see this on delay, there are significant winds that are taking him -- they told us last week that he could land maybe 20 to 30 miles away from mission control.

And then they'll send the rescue choppers out to get him. But so far, it looks very, very good - Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So he's roughly 5,000 feet now. We cut away from the live pictures. We'll bring them to you when we know he is actually on the ground. Again, these are images earlier of him leaving the trailer, getting ready to get into that capsule, and we've been watching all morning long.

And marvelling at the fact that you would see him in the capsule and it would be carried up with this balloon, helium balloon, and then we would be able to see it all taking place live, him in the capsule thousands of miles above the earth, and the conversation with mission control.

You see right there the earlier images of that balloon being filled up, a balloon that we heard our Chad Myers and others describe is ten times thinner. The membrane is ten times thinner than a sandwich bag and a lot is being gleaned from this scientific experiment.

It is not strictly for thrill seekers. We're going to watch one more time what happened 23 miles above earth. There's his mother there, Ava, with tears in her eyes, and this is the jump once he's disconnected from the umbilical, and this is Felix Baumgartner in that free fall.

The excitement and exuberance from the crew, mission control, and of course mom, the first time ever leaving Europe, but you are seeing a very relieved Felix Baumgartner there on the ground, extraordinary moment.

It's difficult to know where in proximity to mission control he's actually landed. You mentioned, Brian, there's the helicopter. You said the chopper would find him, and they did.

TODD: They found him, Fredricka. It's interesting when he was doing his final glide onto the surface. You could see a chopper kind of circling around him. They just rushed up to him, very, very exciting. When he landed a couple minutes ago, he got on his knees, he raised his fists and it was just a great moment.

WHITFIELD: Incredible. Chad, your impressions, this really is an incredible human feat. It is one for science as well, and all those who love science and love aeronautical engineering and space have tears in their eyes.

MYERS: There is very little you can say, honestly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will preserve the data and the pictures that are there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Capsule altitude is 140,000 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Baumgartner, friends, Felix Baumgartner senior's father, all celebrating at mission control. There's the helicopter very near to where he landed out to the east of Roswell.

MYERS: The high winds today took that capsule about 45 miles east of Roswell. That's much farther than they thought, tracking on Google earth.

WHITFIELD: I think what was extraordinary, there are a lot of things extraordinary here, but extraordinary, too, he is standing up. He seems to be completely poised and has all of his motor skills intact, just from what we can see of this view. And that acknowledgment of, you know, mission accomplished.

MYERS: He actually hit the ground running. When he pulled the chute, turned into the wind and he was running as he hit the ground. It was an amazing shot.

TODD: There he goes. He just took his helmet off.

WHITFIELD: As if he just ascended from 15,000 feet, you know, incredible. Brian, you know, so much has gone into this. It was five years of training for this young man. He's in his early 40s.

Five years of training, this isn't, of course, his first incredible jump. He's done lots of incredible jumps, but this one, of course, takes him to a whole new apex.

Was there any doubt along the way in these five years of training for him personally or for any of the other crew members that they thought, there's no way this could actually happen.

TODD: I don't think they ever got to the point, Fredricka, when they thought there was no way it could happen. They have been really optimistic the whole way that they could do this, that they could pull it off. There have been some glitches.

Felix Baumgartner, I should add, is claustrophobic, if you can believe that. He had trouble adjusting to the suit, the capsule, all of that. He had to go to a psychiatrist to help deal with those problems.

You know, at one point, he did kind of take a break from the preparation in 2010 to leave and just kind of go off and then he came back. But this was never really too much in doubt from the Red Bull Stratus team. You heard them just voice optimism the whole time that they could do this. But it was five years in preparation. They had the two delays. They had the one last Tuesday when all of us thought, gee, is this ever going to happen because it was such a fragile thing when it was on the ground and the balloon was inflated.

Literally any small gust of wind could compromise it. So there were doubts among us and the press whether this could ever come off. But clearly the Red Bull Stratus team very confident, Felix very confident in the final months that this could happen, and it looks like that confidence was borne out.

It does not look like that high-pressure suit experienced any kind of compromise. So what you could be looking at, Fredricka, on the person of Felix Baumgartner is the next generation of space suit.

That was the key thing that they wanted to find out. It looks like they can use this space suit outside the capsule. Of course, they are going to be measuring data from this and seeing if it can actually function that way. That was the key goal of this mission.

WHITFIELD: Well, let's talk to someone who knows firsthand about what it is to wear the NASA space suit, the flight suit. Former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao is joining us now from Houston.

We spoke yesterday and we were talking, Leroy, yesterday about the "Endeavour" making its way through the Los Angeles streets to its final resting spot at the California Science Museum.

But now I'd love your impression on what you witnessed today and if you, indeed, believe that high-pressure suit that was worn by Felix Baumgartner takes space exploration to a whole new level.

LEROY CHIAO, FORMER INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION COMMANDER: Well, right. Congratulations to Felix Baumgartner and the whole Red Bull team. What they pulled off is nothing short of fantastic. It's been several years in the planning.

You know, this was not some kind of daredevil stunt. This was carefully planned out. I know some folks on the team there, and it was well thought out, very well planned. They had a series of test jumps, refinements of the hardware to get prepared for today's record- breaking attempt.

So big congratulations to all of them. Of course, a lot of science and technology has come out of this. They've driven the space suit technology to the next level. Maybe not this particular suit, but certainly the lessons learned from the suit will be applied to future space suits.

As well as the telemetry and all data gathering they were able to get on the space suit and the individual and the way they were able to package it and transmit it. It all really is advanced state of the art of pressure suits.

WHITFIELD: Was your heart pounding like ours were? Ours was pounding when we saw that picture of him disconnecting from that umbilical, disconnecting from oxygen and then making that jump from free fall in that capsule. What was happening to your heart and mine?

CHIAO: Yes, there's no question that he's a brave man. This was something never done before. A new altitude record and I guess we're still waiting to hear if he broke the sound barrier or made the speed record.

But in either case, fantastic, there's got to be a little bit of adrenaline going on at this time, so sure, my heart rate was up watching him get ready to jump out.

You know, he had to be very careful, of course, that he didn't get into a spin. It looked like he did get into a spin initially, but was able to pull out of it, so certainly not without risk.

WHITFIELD: Was there ever a moment for you when you thought, I want to do that.

CHIAO: You know, it looks cool. I have jumped out of an airplane exactly once. I was 19 years old and was sure nothing bad would ever happen, and since then I've been trained, of course, to eject out of aircraft and things like that, but never made another free fall. So it does look pretty exciting, but, you know, that was another life ago.

WHITFIELD: And now what about the trepidation? Did you have any going forward, witnessing this, wondering about, you know, the risks that were being taken here and wondering whether the potential successes far outweighed the risk?

CHIAO: There were risks, but as I said the project was very carefully planned out. They had gone through successfully, you know, more difficult tests and learned from all those tests.

So really it was a build-up. It was the proper way to do things. So the risk from this jump compared to the last one was just incrementally more. You know, just a little bit more because it was going to a new altitude and thinner air and things like that.

So, you know, I guess I never really had much doubt that he would succeed in his jump, and I'm glad that he did because of the way -- I know the background of how this was all built up and very carefully planned out and tested.

WHITFIELD: What does this mean to you that some of these commercial endeavours are now employing a lot of former NASA experts? There are a lot of people who have worked intimately at Cape Canaveral, Houston, for many, many years who are part of this project.

CHIAO: I think that's great. You know, it makes sense to learn from people who can contribute, who have experiences that are relevant. So a project like this certainly was very relevant to use folks from NASA who have been through something, you know, similar things, dealt with similar issues.

I'm glad to see NASA professionals going and helping the commercial folks who frankly don't have such experience, and that the commercial folks are willing to leverage off the people with the experience and know-how.

MYERS: Leroy, it's Chad Myers. I have a question for you. Does it say anything about the difficulty of this that this record now broke a 52-year-old record, how difficult it was to get above that old record and how long it took?

CHIAO: Absolutely. I mean, once you get above a certain altitude, there's not many air molecules, but there is a difference between 105 and 120 and then getting actually into space.

So you're right, the 52-year-old record that was broken stayed for a long time. It's not an easy thing to do. The fact you had Joe Kittinger there as part of the team, helping Felix break his record, I mean, I think that was great.

MYERS: I think it's amazing that this very day the speed of sound was broken in an airplane.

WHITFIELD: This was scheduled to happen earlier in the week, but because of the elements and the conditions were just not cooperating, it just so happens this ended up being the optimal day, very significant on so many levels.

CHIAO: Right. Right.

WHITFIELD: So we're rolling that tape again, Leroy. I don't know if you're able to see it this moment. That descent. That jump out of that capsule. What do you think is next? After something like this, what is the next challenge for space exploration, for science, for experimentation of this level?

CHIAO: Well, I think as we're talking about this experiment, this jump was very relevant for pressure suit development. So this will lead to better pressure suits. You see that he was actually relatively flexible in that suit.

That's one thing we struggle with pressure suits is how do you keep enough pressure in there and design soft goods and everything else such that you minimize volume changes when you move your arms and legs and to let the person be somewhat flexible without -- so you don't have to work too hard against the suit.

And I think this is part of what's going to come out of this kind of work. So the next level, as you say, is maybe going to be the more not boring, certainly, but it's going to be the stepwise progression of improving existing suits and designing new suits.

You know, it's not necessarily going to be another jump at a higher altitude, but producing operational suits out of what is learned here, a better operational suit.

WHITFIELD: Leroy, so we're seeing in its entirety now, the entire jump. Earlier, we cut away from portions of the jump for obvious reasons. But now we were able to show knowing that it was successful and in the end, Felix Baumgartner landing on his feet. But there was a moment there and perhaps you saw it where he was spinning kind of out of control. Is that the kind of moment that would automatically or perhaps would be a prelude to that automatic release of that emergency chute?

CHIAO: Well, yes, the spinning certainly was a concern. You know, the concerns mostly were some kind of a breach of a suit of the capsule, some kind of -- the spinning getting out of control and you did see him spin there on the way down. Fortunately, he got it under control pretty quickly and that's a testament to his skill as a skydiver.

WHITFIELD: It really would be hard to regain that kind of control?

CHIAO: Yes, because he's the one able to control the aerodynamics by moving his arms and legs and body that he knows as an experienced skydiver to get under control, even though this would be the first time that sets the air density. As you saw, he was able to quickly get himself under control.

WHITFIELD: My goodness, how does one train for that?

CHIAO: Well, I mean, he's a very experienced sky diver, so he's learned from all his lower skydives how to control his body in the air and change directions, change orientation, change altitude, so all that comes into place. A little bit like flying an airplane, but this time you're flying yourself.

WHITFIELD: Incredible, Chad Myers, you and I are seeing this for the first time now the entire jump, because for obvious reasons, out of an abundance of caution, we did not show this portion of the jump.

They got to see the beginning when he made his ascent, and they got to see the end when he was essentially jogging on the ground there.

What is your impression seeing this kind of descent and even the moment of spinning out of control, but then you heard Leroy Chiao there say that was that great skydiving training that allowed him to get his body back in control.

MYERS: We watched his descent speed rise all the way to what I think -- I saw 724, somewhere in there. Then when the descent started to slow, that's when his body was hitting air molecules in the atmosphere. That's when there started to be air there and that's when the tumbling took place.

In the first 20 seconds, there was nothing for him to deflect. There was no way for him really to turn over, to flip over, to dive because even if he used all of his hand surfaces and his legs, there is nothing there.

There are no molecules up there for him to deflect. But when he started to slow down, that's when the tumble started to occur and that's when I got very concerned, and obviously, he could use his hands, he could use his legs, use his body.

All the things he learned, that saved his life. That experience saved him because he knew what to do.

WHITFIELD: It really did. There's a chute opening there. He was able to make the pulls on that chute and make the rest of his descent there, extraordinary. Chad Myers, thanks so much.

We're going to bring people up to speed now on all the news, including this taking place. Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut. Thanks so much. We're going to talk to you again in a matter of minutes.

So again, you're now looking at images that were taken less than 30 minutes ago of Felix Baumgartner as he was making his descent from 23 miles above the earth in a free fall fashion before he was able to hit the right place in the atmosphere.

And have the wherewithal to open his chute, and there is the descent there on the horizon before he was able to finally land on his feet just about 45 miles away from Roswell, New Nexico where this mission began for him early this morning, incredible feat here.

Still unclear whether he was able to break that record and become the first human to break that sound barrier. We do know that he has already set a record being the first human to go the highest one has ever gone in a manned balloon.

That we know, and there is his picture of his mom right there. Earlier she was in tears during his ascent into space, and now much relief for Mom Ava there, the first time she's actually left Europe and there in Roswell, New Mexico to eyewitness this flight in history.

This was not a NASA project, this was a commercial project, but many people who were part of this mission formally worked with NASA. Pretty incredible stuff we've been watching this afternoon.

We want to bring you up to date on two very important stories we continue to follow. This, the Felix Baumgartner place in history, and we also want to report to you this very sad news, the death of one of the most prominent politicians to serve in the U.S. Senate, Arlen Specter.

The veteran Pennsylvania lawmaker died today in his home in Philadelphia from complications of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He is 82 years old. A public funeral service is planned for Tuesday in Pennsylvania.

Specter was the longest serving senator from the state of Pennsylvania, and during his three decades in office, he was both a Republican and a Democrat.

Lisa Sylvester takes a look at Specter's high-profile career and the legacy he leaves behind.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his 30 years in the U.S. Senate, Arlen Specter survived a lot, a benign brain tumor, bruising partisan battles and a health care town hall. In 2005, we all watched Senator Specter's first bout of cancer play out in public.

ARLEN SPECTER, FORMER SENATOR: Hodgkin's is about the best of the bad things to get.

SYLVESTER: He had just won a tough battle for the job he coveted, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then in 2008, his Hodgkin's disease cancer came back.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent a morning with Specter at the time.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're probably going to lose more of your hair.

SPECTER: I'm going to lose all of my hair. I'm going to be as bald as a billiard ball.

GUPTA: How are you going to feel?

SPECTER: I am answer that question categorically. I'm going to not mind at all.

SYLVESTER: In fact, we watched as the chemo made him balder and paler and weaker and sicker. What we did not know at the time was the worst Specter looked, the better he was getting. He said he planned to be in politics a long time.

SPECTER: If I run in 2010 and win and again in 2016, win and go again in the year 2022, and if I'm up for election in 2028, I'll be younger than Strom Thurman was.

SYLVESTER: More political battles were in store facing almost certain defeat from a more conservative opponent in the Republican 2010 primary, Specter did the unthinkable.

SPECTER: As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy.

SYLVESTER: He switched parties, becoming a Democrat. He won President Obama's endorsement.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm thrilled to have Arlen in the Democratic caucus.

SYLVESTER: Incurring the wrath of many home state voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I consider Senator Specter a traitor, quite honestly.

SYLVESTER: The new Democrat tried to explain, taking crowds back to his childhood.

SPECTER: I became a JFK Democrat. SYLVESTER: It sounded as if he wanted us to believe he had never really been a Republican.

SPECTER: I probably voted more often on the big issues with the Democrats than with the Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret ever having become a Republican?

SPECTER: I did my best for a long time to moderate the Republican Party. And the great day when they refused to talk about the stimulus, which was necessary to avoid a depression.

SYLVESTER: He, nonetheless, had President Obama and the Democratic establishment, but it wasn't enough. Specter lost the 2010 primary to then-congressman Joe Sestak, effectively ending his political career.

The former prosecutor will be remembered as a tough interrogator of Supreme Court nominees, as Judiciary Committee chairman, a champion for medical research and a staunch supporter of women's rights, especially a woman's right to choose to an abortion. Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: And among the many who knew Arlen Specter well and actually covered him on Capitol Hill, CNN's chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. I asked Candy why Senator Specter was known as Snarlin Arlen.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He could be cranky. He was a very smart guy, very smart guy. A lawyer, he had been a prosecuting attorney. He has been -- the history that he covered in his career, not just the Senate

I think he was there for like 30 years, but he was on the Warren Commission, he was one of the attorneys for the Warren Commission, which looked into the JFK assassination. So just the time that he spent with all the Supreme Court nominees because he loved the law, he was on the Judiciary Committee.

He played such a pivotal role in selecting some of the Supreme Court justices that now sit on that bench and approving them. So he had such a span of history. He was also really got battered by politics.

He started out a register Democrat, but ran as a Republican, got elected to the Senate as a Republican, and at the end of his career, when he was getting ready to run for re-election in the 2010 race, or close to it.

I'm going to have to go back and actually check that. In 2010, he switched parties and became a Democrat because he felt that the Republican Party elected him. He was a moderate from Pennsylvania and was about to get a huge challenge from the conservative side and thought he might lose that.

He switched to the Democratic Party, but in the end he lost the Democratic primary and that was the end, certainly, of his public career, but just a fascinating, smart guy who contributed so much to history and lived so much of it.

WHITFIELD: Candy Crowley, thank you so much for that perspective. And of course, all the best this week, we'll be watching you Tuesday night.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So again, former Senator Arlen Specter dead at the age of 82 this morning, and of course, Candy Crowley will be moderating the presidential debate in New York this Tuesday night our live coverage beginning at 7:00 Eastern Time.

Candy Crowley is moderating, and coming up in the 4:00 Eastern Time today, Candy will give us an idea of what to expect.

Also in a moment, back to that extraordinary moment of history of a skydiver from 128,000 feet descending to make a successful land on earth.


WHITFIELD: Skydiver Felix Baumgartner just went down into the history books. He just made an unbelievable free fall from more than 23 miles above earth. You see it right there.

He broke records we understand, one for the faster free fall ever, the other for the highest free fall and one for the highest manned balloon. He just landed safely a short time ago near Roswell, New Mexico. You saw that here on CNN.

Brian Todd is watching this closely. It was riveting, those moments, and I think everyone's hearts were in their throats. You spent a lot of time with the crew and with Baumgartner a week ago when they attempted the first mission. It was scrapped for this day. What are your impressions?

TODD: It is extraordinary, Fredricka. You know, my heart was pounding just like everyone's was when we saw Felix step off that platform, off the capsule, the platform the size of a skateboard keeping them up there.

He took a little bunny hop and there he went. You could almost feel the speed even from this distance away, just looking at it in these monitors. It was incredible to watch the rate of speed at which he was falling.

At one point, he did go into a spin. Some spin was expected. What they were really concerned about was if he would go into an uncontrollable flat spin. Not clear that that ever happened, really.

He did go into somewhat of a spin but he stabilized very, very quickly, and when he stabilized, I was watching it live at the time, you could hear cheers from mission control go up. That was one thing they were watching for. Could he spin? Is he going to be unconscious? He stabilized very quickly and you could hear the cheers go up from mission control. The other question here, did he surpass the speed of sound?

Now if you look at what you're seeing on your screen is there and you look at the miles per hour, by that reading, he did. We have to confirm that he actually did that, but if you look at that reading, 729 miles an hour you're seeing there, that's past the speed of sound.

It would appear from that reading that he did break that record as well, but again we would have to confirm that. You see an image of him spinning. If you can see him tumbling there, that's where all of us here, Chad Myers and I and others were concerned, but he stabilized quickly after that and it became a very successful mission.

WHITFIELD: Incredible. All right, Brian Todd, thanks so much.

OK, again, of those three records that I mentioned, we know that one is confirmed. He had gone the highest any human has ever gone has gone in a manned balloon. The other still have to be confirmed. Thanks so much for that. Brian Todd, appreciate that.

All right, straight ahead, I'll help you get away from it all. That probably helped you get away from it all right there, but instead we're going to take you to something more reasonable for most travelers. How about going away to the Caribbean?


WHITFIELD: If you're looking for a new spot to relax on your next vacation, we're about to show you some of the best hotels of the year as rated by "Travel and Leisure" magazine.

The first one we're visiting is on the Caribbean Island of Dominica. I got a scoop on it from "Travel and Leisure's" features director, Nilou Motamed.


NILOU MOTAMED, FEATURES DIRECTOR, "TRAVEL AND LEISURE": We have a hotel called Secret Bay. We love this property because Dominica has really been off with the impasse for a lot of travelers. We don't realize how close it is to Puerto Rico.

You take an hour flight from San Juan until you get right there, but you really are off the grid. This hotel gives a lot of luxury to this island that previously has been a beautiful place that you can go and relax.

There is volcanic terrain, there are these coves everywhere. The hotel itself has a beautiful secluded beach. You can lie on a hammock or my favorite thing, go to the beach, and you can have a cook come to your room, prepare lobsters for you and clean up when she's done.

WHITFIELD: That's a vacation. The food is fantastic?

MOTAMED: Actually, one of our crew down there, he thought it was the best food he's ever had anywhere in the Caribbean. That's a big deal.

WHITFIELD: That's a very big deal. Now we're going to go further south to Chile, and we're going to a nice little island after the Chilean Coast.

MOTAMED: Yes, the Juan Fernandez Island. This is a place that feels like a castaway fantasy. If you're really looking to get off the grid, the place to go is the Cristo Island Lodge. This is a place that only has 16 rooms and it's thought to be the place where Robinson Crusoe was actually marooned.

So you can go explore the cave where he's said to have spent some time, you can go to the bayou reserve where there's said to be hidden treasure, and of course, there's great Latin food so you can get a little culture and a great beach experience.

WHITFIELD: OK, so you're going to relax, but at the same time you'll be a little exploratory, too.

MOTAMED: This is definitely a trip for someone to go on who wants to be active. There is a lot of outdoorsy stuff to do, which if you're into it. This is a place that isn't on a lot of people's list and it should be on yours.

WHITFIELD: What's this new hot destination in Miami South Beach?

MOTAMED: The SLS South Beach. This has a lot of megawattage, if you will. It has everyone's favorite chef all coming together, and Lenny Kravitz actually designed their penthouse suite. This is where you'll go to see and be seen.

There is a very busy pool scene. There is a giant rubber ducky statue that is presiding over this pool scene. It's a gorgeous art deco property that has been redone for a contemporary, kind of hip south beach aesthetics.

WHITFIELD: So this is an adult program. You're not bringing the kids there.

MOTAMED: I would not bring the kids there. There are plenty of places to bring the kids in south beach. Maybe this won't be it. But if you have older kids, they might enjoy that rubber ducky.

WHITFIELD: You mentioned Lenny Kravitz and maybe if you're lucky, he's there.

MOTAMED: That's what we could all hope for.

WHITFIELD: If not, at least you'll get the penthouse suite and check out his style. All right, thanks so much, Nilou Motamed. Thanks so much, always good to see you.

MOTAMED: Thank you, Fredricka.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: All right, thanks, Nilou. You can find out more about these great escapes and others in this month's issue of "Travel and Leisure."

All right, skydiver Felix Baumgartner has just gone down in the record books with his unbelievable jump in space. We'll talk about an astronaut about the significance of this accomplishment.


WHITFIELD: All right, just a short time ago, you watched it here on CNN, record-breaking Felix Baumgartner landed on his feet in a record- breaking free fall jumping 23 miles above earth.

His crew believed he broke three records, one for the fastest free fall ever, the other for the highest free fall, and one for highest manned balloon.

Former astronaut, Leroy Chiao, is joining us live again from Houston. So Leroy, you know, what do you believe is the greatest accomplishment or legacy from this jump?

CHIAO: Well, I think the greatest legacy is that this team was able to pull it off because as I mentioned before. This was not just something they thought up and then went out and tried.

It was conceived over many years and planned for many years and did several other jumps before this one including, I believe, at around 80,000 and 100,000, so it was a build-up.

They finally got to the point where they were going to try for the record today and they broke three of them. So congratulations to the team. The things they developed, the pressure suit technology, I think you're going to see these things incorporated in the future pressure suits that are used in spacecraft.

WHITFIELD: And let's talk about that high pressure suit and what makes this one so significant or a few steps above what NASA has been using for a long time now?

CHIAO: Well, the suits that NASA used aboard the shuttle and the suits used aboard the Russian Soyuz right now, they're basically the same design with some improvements over the years, but basically the same designs that have existed for a long time, decades, actually.

This suit here appears to be a pretty new adaptation. We've taken a lot of lessons learned from these older suits and you've improved upon them. It looks like the flexibility might have been a little better in this suit.

Certainly the telemetry packages, the sensors and the way they were able to collect data and record, those were big advances. Like I said, I think this will drive the technology of newer suits as they're developed.

WHITFIELD: All right, Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut, thanks so much for joining us and being with us this afternoon and taking us through that live coverage. Appreciate it. Good to see you from Houston.

CHIAO: Nice to see you. Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, and it started out as a day at a football game for this family, but then it turned into raw emotion on the field.


WHITFIELD: And another member of our armed forces gave his family a giant surprise recently after being stationed overseas for about a year. He appeared on the jumbo screen at the University of Alabama football screen.

It's what happened next that has that video going viral. My gosh, that is a huge homecoming. You know there was not a dry eye in the house. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. I'll be back in one hour to talk to that family.

We'll hear from CNN's Candy Crowley about how she plans to handle her duties moderating this week's presidential debate.