Retired Air Force Col. Joseph Kittinger, whose 1960 parachute jump from almost 20 miles above the Earth stood as a world record for more than 50 years, died Friday in Florida. He was 94. Let us see more details about him.
Who is Joseph Kittinger?
Colonel Joseph William Kittinger II served as a command pilot in the United States Air Force (USAF) from July 27, 1928, until December 9, 2022.
His first active duty was flying fighter aircraft. Later, from 1956 to 1960, he took part in the Project Manhigh and Project Excelsior high-altitude balloon flight missions.
He became the first person to fully observe the curvature of the Earth. On August 16, 1960, he broke the record for the highest skydive, jumping 102,800 feet (31.3 kilometers).
Kittinger downed a North Vietnamese MiG-21 jet plane while serving as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. After being shot down himself, he was held as a prisoner of war in a North Vietnamese jail for 11 months before being released in 1973.
He was the first person to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean in a gas balloon in 1984.
Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile (39-kilometer) freefall from Earth’s stratosphere in 2012. It beat Kittinger’s 53-year-old record and was guided by Kittinger, who took part in the Red Bull Stratos project at the age of 84 as a capsule communicator. The record set by Baumgartner would be surpassed two years later by Alan Eustace.
Record-Breaking Sky Dive
As a pilot for the U.S. Air Force, Kittinger made history when he jumped from a hot air balloon 102,800 feet above Earth as part of Project Excelsior in 1960.
His record-breaking skydive was crucial to understanding how humans can survive at those altitudes and helped in sending Americans into space.
Kittinger, who served in the Vietnam War as well, was shot down in 1972 and held captive for almost a year. Kittinger persisted in his involvement with aviation programs even after his 1978 retirement from the Air Force. He accomplished the first solo gas balloon crossing of the Atlantic in 1984.
He served as an advisor to daredevil Felix Baumgartner in 2012 when Baumgartner broke Kittinger’s record for the highest parachute jump.
Gear Malfunctioned When Jumping
When Kittinger, an Air Force captain, and pilot at the time, made three dives from a gondola that was carried into the stratosphere by massive helium balloons over the course of ten months. He became famous all over the world. The objective of Project Excelsior was to assist in the development of ejection devices for military pilots engaged in high-altitude missions.
When Kittinger’s gear failed after he descended from 14.5 miles in November 1959 while wearing a pressure suit and 60 pounds of equipment, he nearly lost his life during the project’s first jump (23 kilometers). He lost consciousness when he entered 22 times more forceful spin. His automatic chute opened and saved him.
Kittinger accomplished his second jump from a height of slightly over 14 miles (22 kilometers) four weeks later. This time, nothing went wrong.
On August 16, 1960, Kittinger made a record-breaking jump in the desert of New Mexico. Inability to seal off his right hand as he rose caused his pressure suit to malfunction, causing it to grow to double its normal size before he leaped from 102,800 feet, or more than 19 miles (31.3 kilometers) above the earth.
The Tampa native reached speeds of almost 600 mph (965 kph) while free-falling in the thin atmosphere. when his parachute released at 18,000 feet, the steadily expanding air slowed his fall to roughly 150 mph (241 kph) (5.5 kilometers).
A park is named after him
The speed is impossible to imagine, Kittinger said to Florida Trend magazine in 2011. Nothing is visible that would allow you to gauge your speed. You cannot see depth. If you close your eyes while driving down the road in a car, you won’t know how fast you’re going.
It’s the same thing if you’re free-falling from space. Signposts are not present. Even if you are moving incredibly quickly, you are not aware of it. A 988 kph (614 mph) wind is not blowing on you. In the helmet, I could only hear my own breathing.
His record stood until 2012, when Austrian Felix Baumgartner jumped from 24 miles (38.6 kilometers) above the New Mexico desert, reaching the supersonic speed of 844 mph (1,360 kph). Kittinger served as an adviser.
Kittinger persisted in the Air Force following his jumps, serving three tours of service throughout the Vietnam War. In May 1972, he was shot down over North Vietnam, but he managed to escape and parachuted to safety. He was taken prisoner and tortured for 11 months while being held in a camp in Hanoi.
In 1978, he left the Air Force and lived in the Orlando region, where he quickly rose to fame. There is a park there that carries his name.
Cause of Death
His death was announced by former U.S. Rep. John Mica and other friends. The cause was lung cancer. He gained worldwide fame when he completed three jumps over 10 months from a gondola that was hoisted into the stratosphere by large helium balloons.
Memories Posted on Social Media
Florida Sen. Rick Scott reacted to news of the 94-year-old’s death, saying in a tweet, “We’re forever thankful for his service.”
Bob Snow, Kittinger’s longtime buddy, claimed to have spoken with him the day before he passed away.
“I just can’t picture Kittinger being absent,” he said. He was involved in everything we did, Snow added. “Meeting Joe Kittinger was the best thing that ever happened to me because he offered professionalism and excitement.”
Snow bought the Church Street Entertainment District and Church Street Station in downtown Orlando in the 1970s and expanded them. Before Disney Springs and Universal’s Citywalk, people flocked to the downtown attractions.
A memorial service for Kittinger is planned for January.
— The Spaceflight Guy (@SpaceflightGuy) December 10, 2022
Our nation lost a legend and hero with the passing of U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph Kittinger. We're forever thankful for his service and contributions to our country.https://t.co/pyUQERPVJ2
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) December 9, 2022
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