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American aerospace pioneer and parachute jumper Joseph Kittinger dies at 94


A large of American aerospace historical past, Air Drive Col. Joseph Kittinger Jr., who for greater than half a century held a world document for a parachute soar from the sting of area, died in Florida on Friday at age 94.

In his record-setting jump in 1960, he stepped out of a gondola 102,800 ft (nearly 20 miles) excessive, an elevation that put him exterior greater than 99 p.c of Earth’s ambiance.

Then-Capt. Kittinger free-fell for 4 minutes 37 seconds, reaching speeds over 600 mph.

The soar was a part of early space-age exploration, occurring earlier than people had landed on the moon and when it was unclear whether or not an individual may survive a soar from the sting of area.

Col. Kittinger died of lung most cancers, in accordance with a pal, former U.S. consultant John L. Mica, the Related Press reported. The USA Parachute Affiliation (USPA) additionally announced his loss of life.

USPA mentioned in an announcement late Friday that it was “saddened” by his loss of life, noting that he grew to become a distinguished nationwide determine when “he made a protracted, lonely leap from a hot-air balloon 102,800 ft above the Earth,” on Aug. 16, 1960, as a U.S. Air Drive captain concerned in Undertaking Excelsior.

As a part of the undertaking, he accomplished three jumps over 10 months from a pressurized gondola hoisted into the stratosphere by giant helium balloons — his first try was nearly deadly, however he was undeterred. The undertaking sought to check whether or not people may survive extraordinarily high-altitude bailouts and to design ejection methods for army pilots.

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In his remaining record-breaking jump, he took off from the New Mexico desert sporting a cumbersome stress swimsuit — that might briefly malfunction — and rigged with gear that just about doubled his weight, then fell at document speeds.

It took him 1 hour 31 minutes to climb to his most altitude, whilst he started experiencing extreme ache in his proper hand due to a failure in his stress glove. He remained at peak altitude for round 12 minutes earlier than stepping out of his gondola to free fall, then parachute right down to a touchdown.

“There’s no means you may visualize the pace,” Col. Kittinger told Florida Trend magazine in 2011. “There’s nothing you may see to see how briskly you’re going. You don’t have any depth notion. … There aren’t any signposts. I may solely hear myself respiratory within the helmet,” he mentioned.

In 1960, he was awarded the Harmon Trophy by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for excellent accomplishments in aeronautics.

His document for the best balloon ascent and the longest parachute free fall would stand for 52 years. It was damaged in 2012, when Col. Kittinger labored as a advisor to the Austrian Felix Baumgartner, who jumped from 128,000 ft, plummeting to Earth at speeds over 800 mph.

Joseph Kittinger Jr. was born in Tampa in 1928 and have become fascinated with planes at a really younger age, according to the New Mexico Museum of Area Historical past. He attended the College of Florida earlier than making use of for Air Drive cadet coaching. He acquired his pilot wings in 1950.

He retired as a colonel in 1978 after a embellished profession with the Air Drive, together with serving three excursions in Vietnam as a pilot, the place he spent 11 months as a prisoner of warfare, according to the Nationwide Aviation Corridor of Fame.

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He continued his trailblazing as an adventurer, setting one other document in 1983 for the longest distance flown in a 1,000 cubic meter helium balloon.

In 1984, he grew to become the primary particular person to fly solo throughout the Atlantic Ocean in a helium balloon, from Maine, to the Italian Riviera. A jubilant Col. Kittinger told reporters on the time that the flight had been “pure, unadulterated journey.” He added “you simply should go for it; that’s the American means.”

Col. Kittinger wrote a e-book in 1961, “The Lengthy, Lonely Leap,” and remained energetic in aeronautics tasks, particularly ballooning, after his retirement. He lived in Orlando, the place a park is called after him.

A memorial service shall be deliberate for January, USPA mentioned.

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