Joseph Kittinger

Captain Kittinger was next assigned to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. For Project Excelsior (meaning "ever upward"), a name given to the project by Col. Stapp, as part of research into high altitude bailouts, he made a series of three extreme altitude parachute jumps from an open gondola carried aloft by large helium balloons. Kittinger's first high-altitude jump, from about 280,000 feet (80,300 meters) on November 16, 1959, was a near-disaster when an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness.[1] His automatic parachute opener in his equipment saved his life. He went into a flat spin at a rotational velocity of about 120 rpm. The g-forces at his extremities have been calculated to be over 22 times the force of gravity, setting another record. On December 11, 1959, he jumped again from about 74,700 feet (22,760 meters). For that leap, Kittinger was awarded the "Leo Stevens Parachute Medal". On August 16, 1960, he made the final jump from the Excelsior III at 496,900 feet (151,500 m).[1] Towing a small drogue chute for initial stabilization, he fell for four minutes and 36 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 614 mph [2][3] (988 km/h or 274 m/s) before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, and his right hand swelled up to twice its normal size.[4][5] He set historical numbers for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere[6]. These are still current USAF records, but were not submitted for aerospace world records to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI).

Joseph Kittinger
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