Tuesday, March 13, 2007

You Probably Haven't Heard Of This Man Either

This past weekend I watched a show I had taped on The Science Channel. I'm a sucker for any show about the cosmos and that's what this one was.

In it, they started talking about gravity in a lead-up to talking about black holes.

To give a "human" perspective on gravity and it's effects, they showed the story of Joe Kittinger. I had never heard of this man, and most of you probably haven't either.

In 1960 Joe Kittinger was a 32 year old man who was a part of the U.S. Air Force's studies on the effects of high altitude on human bodies.

They put Mr. Kittinger in a pressure suit and helmet and oxygen tank, basically a primitive space suit, and sent him up in a balloon.

But not just a plain old balloon, this one took him up above 100,000 feet. Then after setting some cameras into action on the ballon and mounted on himself, he jumped out of this balloon from 102,800 feet. (39.6km)

The film of his fall was shown on this astronomy show I was watching. I just sat there dumbfounded, realizing what this man had done.

In the film from the camera with him, you could see the curve of the earth from the edge of space.

His jump is still the highest parachute jump ever. He is also the first and only man to ever break the sound barrier with his body.

The speed of sound is a bit less the higher up you are, and he broke the sound barrier in part of his four mile free-fall. At that altitude the speed of sound was 714 miles per hour.

I was sitting there just being more and more amazed. I saved the tape of the show and showed Lovely Wife and the girls. They were suitably impressed.

His chute automatically opened at around 14,000 feet, and he drifted to earth. This was over the New Mexico desert.

I've always been a fan of our space program. It takes a certain amount of guts to sit on top of a rocket and be blasted into space, but it also takes guts to ride a balloon to the top of our atmosphere and jump out of it to study the effects of all the forces, proving that a man could survive a high altituded ejection.

Mr. Kittinger is in his late 70s and lives in Altamonte Springs, Florida, near Orlando.

The program showed him recently, flying a hot-air balloon.

An amazing and brave man. I had never heard of him or what he had done.

Here's a short article about Joe Kittinger and what he did.

Here is a You Tube video of Project Excelsior, and Joe Kittinger. It's about 5.5 minutes long.

I can't believe I had never heard or read about this.


Hammer said...

Didn't another guy drown after doing that when his chute filled with water and drug him down?

JAM said...

Hammer, I don't know. I'd never heard of this guy. This project was over the New Mexico desert, so I don't think it happened in this series of experiments.

Travis said...

I know of Mr Kittinger. That experiment is a great story.