Monday, February 23, 2009

Flash(is)back follows Joseph Kittinger 102,800 feet above the earth's surface

Meet Colonel Joseph Kittinger

On August 16, 1960, Kittinger surpassed the altitude record set by Major David Simons, who had climbed to 101,516 feet (30,942 meters) in 1957 in his Man-High II balloon. Kittinger floated to 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) in Excelsior III, an open gondola adorned with a paper license plate that his five-year-old son had cut out of a cereal box.

Protected against the subzero temperatures by layers of clothes and a pressure suit--he experienced air temperatures as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius)--and loaded down with gear that almost doubled his weight, he climbed to his maximum altitude in one hour and 31 minutes even though at 43,000 feet (13,106 meters) he began experiencing severe pain in his right hand caused by a failure in his pressure glove and could have scrubbed the mission.

He remained at peak altitude for about 12 minutes; then he stepped out of his gondola into the darkness of space. After falling for 13 seconds, his six-foot (1.8-meter) canopy parachute opened and stabilized his fall, preventing the flat spin that could have killed him. Only four minutes and 36 seconds more were needed to bring him down to about 17,500 feet (5,334 meters) where his regular 28-foot (8.5-meter) parachute opened, allowing him to float the rest of the way to Earth. His descent set another record for the longest parachute freefall.

During his descent, he reached speeds up to 614 miles per hour, approaching the speed of sound without the protection of an aircraft or space vehicle. But, he said, he "had absolutely no sense of the speed." His flight and parachute jump demonstrated that, properly protected, it was possible to put a person into near-space and that airmen could exit their aircraft at extremely high altitudes and free fall back into the Earth's atmosphere without dangerous consequences.
and finally the reason I come to all this, is the music of Boards of Canada that lead me to discover Colonel Joseph and his achievement. Enjoy


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