January 14, 2007

Ought To Be Famous

In 1962, Captain Joseph Kittinger II (USAF) rode a weather balloon to over 100,000 feet. Then he jumped out. Air being substantially thinner at that altitude, his terminal velocity approached Mach 1. Using a two-stage parachute system -- the first to slow down his flat spin, and the second the slow down his speed -- he landed safely in the desert of New Mexico.

When I came across this story this morning, I thought it was a hoax. But it's all over the place, if you look for it. The USAF historical websites and multiple hosting sites show the same video, which Kittinger filmed on his descent. This astonishing gut-check ought to be more well-known in the history of aviation and technology than it is. No way would I have been brave enough to have done that. This guy, now in his late seventies, ought to be a lot more famous than he is.

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