Joseph Kittinger: Highest Skydiver For 52 years Dies Aged 94

Joseph Kittinger: Joseph Kittinger, a retired colonel in the US air force, passed away in Florida at 94. His parachute jump in 1960 from a height of nearly 20 miles (32 km) set a world record that stood for more than 50 years.

The former US congressman John Mica and his friends confirmed his passing on Friday. Lung cancer was the root reason. Kittinger, an air force captain, and pilot at the time rose to popularity when he made three jumps from a gondola carried into the stratosphere by enormous helium balloons over ten months. Project Excelsior was created to aid in developing ejection devices for military pilots performing missions at a high altitudes.

Kittinger nearly perished on the project’s first jump in November 1959 when his gear broke down after he descended from 14.5 miles while wearing a pressure suit and 60 pounds (27kg) of equipment.

As he entered a spin with 22 times the force of gravity, he lost consciousness. His automated chute opened, saving him. Kittinger made his second jump from a height of slightly over 14 miles four weeks later. This time, nothing went wrong.

Kittinger set the record jump on August 16, 1960, in the desert of New Mexico. During his ascent, his pressure suit broke down and failed to seal up his right hand, causing it to double its average size before he leaped from 102,800 feet, or more than 19 miles above the ground.

The Florida airman reached speeds of more than 600 mph (965 km/h) when freefalling in the thin atmosphere, but as the air progressively thickened above 18,000 feet, his descent was slowed to roughly 150 mph (5.5km).

Joseph Kittinger
Joseph Kittinger

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Brad Guy Experience: I had a lousy parachute. The speed is impossible to visualize, Kittinger opined to Florida Trend magazine in 2011. Nothing is visible that would allow you to gauge your speed. You cannot see depth.

If you close your eyes while driving down the road in a car, you won’t know how fast you’re going. The situation is identical if you are falling freely through space. Signposts are not present.

“Despite knowing you’re moving quickly, you don’t feel it. A 614 mph wind is not blowing directly at you. In the helmet, I could only hear my breathing.

His record held until 2012, when Austrian Felix Baumgartner made a supersonic jump from a height of 24 miles (38.6 km) above the desert of New Mexico. Kittinger acted as a consultant.

After his jumps, Kittinger remained in the air force and served three tours during the Vietnam War. In May 1972, he was shot down over North Vietnam, but he was ejected.

He was taken prisoner and tortured for 11 months in a Hanoi prisoner-of-war camp. In 1978, he left the air force and lived in the Orlando region, where he quickly rose to fame. There is a park with his name on it. His wife Sherri is left behind.

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