Friday, September 14, 2012

Joseph Kittenger - record holder

Joseph William Kittenger photo
  Mr. Kittenger may well be an "unknown hero".  He was born in Tampa, Florida in 1928, was a decorated pilot in the United States Air Force.  He was shot down over North Vietnam and was a POW for a period of time.  He was a test pilot, and he was a terrific human experiment.  He was a World Record Holder.  He did things most of us wouldn't think of.
  On September 14, 1984 he started a 4 day journey across the Atlantic in a gas balloon, and landed on September 18 in Europe.  A gas balloon is one that is filled with a gas that is lighter than air, like helium.  But it was before this that his first heroic record was made.
  As a very large part of Project Excelsior he was assigned to a group at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.  Most of his assignments we might consider benign, but he set two records for high altitude parachute jumps, or bailouts.  The first jump was on November 16, 1959, he jumped from a gas balloon at an altitude of 76,400 feet above the earth.  An equipment malfunction caused him to pass out, he was in a 'flat spin' and in g-forces greater than 22 times the force of gravity; spinning towards the ground he regained control and landed safely.  On December 11, 1959 he jumped again this time from 74,700 feet, safely with incident.
  On August 16, 1960 he set the real record, on that stood until just a few months ago, he jumped from 102,800 feet (nearly 19.5 miles) and traveled toward the earth at 614 miles per hour, and until earlier this year the highest altitude parachute jump ever.  He received his second Distinguished Flying Cross and was awarded the Harmon Thophy from President Eisenhower.
A long way down, 102,800 feet above the ground. photo

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