I’m on a Red Bull Stratos kick today, so I’m trying to find out everything I can about Joe Kittinger’s record breaking free fall that Felix Baumgartner will attempt to break later this year. Here’s video from Kittinger’s jump.
Here’s the original article about Kittinger’s record that ran in TIME on August 29, 1960:
The Air Force’s steel-nerved Captain Joseph W. Kittinger Jr. has spent more time up in the atmosphere’s cold, thin-aired outer reaches than any man alive. Three years ago, to test body reactions at high altitudes, Kittinger rode a gondola to 96,000 ft. above sea level. Twice he has made record parachute jumps of more than 70,000 ft. Last week red-haired Joe Kittinger, 32, shattered his own marks for both going up and coming down.
Before dawn on the day of his latest and greatest venture into space, he arrived by helicopter at the launching site at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base, climbed into an air-conditioned van to don his Buck Rogersish pressurized space suit, and to begin two hours of inhaling pure oxygen (to get his red blood cells loaded up with an extra supply). Shortly before zero hour, 5:30 a.m., he staggered from the van. his 165-lb. frame laden with 155 lbs. of clothing and equipment, including an experimental stabilizing parachute designed to prevent dangerous high-altitude spin — during which blood collects in the extremities — without slowing the rate of descent.
Up, Up, Up. As the ground crew filled his 400-ft. balloon with helium. Kittinger climbed awkwardly into the open gondola.
Promptly at 5:30, the ground crew un leashed the tugging balloon and Kittinger started soaring off into space. As the atmosphere thinned out, he noticed that one of his pressure gloves wasn’t working right, was cutting off circulation and causing his hand to swell. Being Joe Kittinger, he did not mention that detail in his radio reports to the ground until it was too late for the medical team to order him down without completing his mission.
High above the earth, Kittinger studied a frontier that few men have seen. “Up there,” he recalled afterwards, “the sky looked dark enough to see stars as one would at twilight on earth.” Up, up, up the balloon rose, to 98,800 ft. above the ground (102,800 ft. above sea level), higher than any human being had ever soared before in nonpowered flight. Shortly after 7 a.m., Kittinger ticked off his go-second countdown in radio communication with the ground. Then he “asked the Lord for help,” flopped over the side of the gondola, and began his long fall — nearly 20 miles.
Down, Down, Down. Within 18 seconds, Kittinger’s stabilizing chute opened, but for more than four minutes more he plummeted in free fall, reaching a velocity of 614 m.p.h. “I fell on my right side for about eight seconds,” he says. “Then I found myself on my back watching the balloon recede above me. The sky was almost black. It was a beautiful thing to see. I had a sensation of lying still while the balloon raced away from me. I didn’t feel hot or cold, just the right temperature. There was very little spinning. At 18,000 ft., the regular chute opened automatically. Ten minutes from then I was down.”
Kittinger landed unhurt, lay helpless on his back until helicopters brought a team to rescue him. “I’m very glad to be back among you,” he grinned. Kittinger will receive an oakleaf cluster for his Distinguished Service Cross.