Category Archives: World Records

Worlds Highest Parachute Jump

102.800 Feet Freefall at 614 mph

Captain Kittinger was then assigned to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. For Project Excelsior (meaning “ever upward”, a name given to the project by Colonel Stapp), as part of research into high altitude bailout, he made a series of three parachute jumps wearing a pressurized suit, from a helium balloon with an open gondola.
The first, from 76,400 feet (23,287 m) in November, 1959 was a near tragedy when an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness, but the automatic parachute saved him (he went into a flat spin at a rotational velocity of 120 rpm, the G factor calculated at his extremities was over 22 times that of gravity, setting another record). Three weeks later he jumped again from 74,700 feet (22,769 m). For that return jump Kittinger was awarded the Leo Stevens parachute medal.
On August 16, 1960 he made the final jump from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet (31,300 m). He was in freefall for 4½ minutes and reached a maximum speed of 614 mph (988 km/h) before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, causing his hand to swell. He set records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest freefall and fastest speed by a man through the atmosphere. [1]
According to Kittinger, he broke the speed of sound during that famous highest jump. This may be debatable, as other references give his peak speed at 614 (988 km/h)[citation needed] or 618 (994 km/h)[citation needed] miles per hour, or mach 0.9. Nevertheless, he occasionally ribs Chuck Yeager about being the first man to break the speed of sound.[citation needed]
The jumps were made in a “rocking-chair” position, descending on his back, rather than the usual delta familiar to skydivers, because he was wearing a 60-lb “kit” on his behind and his pressure suit naturally formed that shape when inflated, a shape appropriate for sitting in an airplane cockpit.
For the series of jumps, Kittinger was decorated with an oak leaf cluster to his D.F.C. and awarded the Harmon Trophy by President Dwight Eisenhower.

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