See that guy up there? How far do you think he's falling from? 20,000, maybe 30,000 feet? No that man up there is Joseph Kittinger and on August 16, 1960 he fell to Earth from an incredible 102,800 feet!
Joseph Kittinger was quite possibly the bravest men of his time. Joseph Kittinger was a decorated pilot and after the Korean War he started to work for the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories. That is where it all started with Project Excelsior. Project Excelsior was designed around testing parachutes for pilots ejecting from planes. Technology of airplanes was progressing to the point where high altitude planes were becoming a common sight and the safety of these pilots was a growing concern. This is where Kittinger came in. Kittinger's job was to take a balloon to extreme heights and just jump out.
Kittinger made two jumps prior to his record breaking third attempt. The first one, occurring in November 1959 was at a height of 76,400 feet but due to a malfunction his parachute deployed too early causing him to spiral out of control and subsequently the next attempt was at 74,700 feet. To give you an idea on how high these jumps were most skydivers of today jump between 16,000 to 20,000 ft with the highest civilian skydive capped at 30,000 ft. His third attempt was at the insane height of 102,800 ft. During his initial free fall Kittinger broke the sound barrier falling at 614 mph (988 km/h).
Kittinger 's record for the fastest and highest skydive still stands more than 50 years later, although perhaps not for long. Felix Baumgartner (with coaching from Kittinger) hopes to break that record at last.