Joe Kittinger – The Highest Skydive (31 km)

Joe Kittinger – The Highest Skydive (31 km)
July 01, 2012

UPDATE: Records are made to be broken. Click here to see the new highest skydive by Felix Baumgartner.

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“Project Excelsior was a series of high-altitude parachute jumps made by Joseph Kittinger in 1959 and 1960 to test the Beaupre multi-stage parachute system. In one of these jumps Kittinger set world records for the highest parachute jump, the longest parachute drogue fall and the fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere, all of which still stand.

The first test, Excelsior I, was made on November 16, 1959. Kittinger ascended in the gondola and jumped from an altitude of 76,400 feet (23,287 m).In this first test, the stabilizer parachute was deployed too soon, catching Kittinger around the neck and causing him to spin at 120 revolutions per minute. This caused Kittinger to lose consciousness, but his life was saved by his main parachute which opened automatically at a height of 10,000 feet (3,048 m).

The second test, Excelsior II, was made on December 11, 1959. This time, Kittinger jumped from an altitude of 74,700 feet (22,769 m) and descended in free-fall for 55,000 feet (16,764 m) before opening his main parachute.

The third and final test, Excelsior III, was made on August 16, 1960. During the ascent, the pressure seal in Kittinger’s right glove failed, and he began to experience severe pain in his right hand from the exposure of his hand to the extreme low pressure. He decided not to inform the ground crew about this, in case they should decide to abort the test. Despite temporarily losing the use of his right hand, he continued with the ascent, climbing to an altitude of 102,800 feet (31,333 m). The ascent took one hour and 31 minutes and broke the previous manned balloon altitude record of 101,516 feet (30,942 m), which was set by Major David Simons as part of Project Man High in 1957. Kittinger stayed at peak altitude for 12 minutes, waiting for the balloon to drift over the landing target area. He then stepped out of the gondola to begin his descent.

The small stabilizer parachute deployed successfully and Kittinger fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds. At an altitude of 17,500 feet (5,334 m), Kittinger opened his main parachute and landed safely in the New Mexico desert. The whole descent took 13 minutes and 45 seconds. During the descent, Kittinger experienced temperatures as low as −94 °F (−70 °C). In the free-fall stage, he reached a top speed of 614 miles per hour (988 km/h).”

Kittinger is currently advising Felix Baumgartner on a planned free-fall from 120,000 feet (about 36,000m). The project is called the Red Bull Stratos project.