Much has been made of Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic jump from the stratosphere. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that today’s jump is sponsored by Red Bull. With sponsored ads de rigueur these days, is anyone really surprised with Red Bull’s involvement?
At any rate, it’s still a cool happening. But Baumgartner isn’t the first to undertake a high-altitude jump. That honor belongs to Capt. Joseph Kittinger, a U.S. Air Force pilot who undertook jumps for Project Excelsior.
On June 2, 1957, Kittinger ascended to a height a 96,784 feet in a balloon as part of Project Manhigh. Over the next two years, two other pilots, Major David Simons and Lieutenant Clifton McClure, reached heights of 98,097 and 101,516 feet respectively.
Kittinger then undertook three jumps as part of Project Excelsior. In the first jump on November 16, 1959, Kittinger jumped out of a balloon at 76,400 feet and lost consciousness, saved only by an automatic parachute which opened at 10,000 feet. Three weeks later Kittinger jumped from an altitude of 74,700 feet and was in free fall for 55,000 feet. The final jump, on August 16, 1960, found Kittinger rising to a height of 102,800 feet, breaking the previous manned balloon record. On ascent, Kittinger lost the function of his right hand due to extreme low pressure but jumped anyway from 102,800 feet. He free fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds.
Watch Red Bull’s live feed of Baumgartner’s jump below. Also below is footage of Kittinger’s final Excelsior jump edited into the nifty Boards of Canada video for the song “Dayvan Cowboy.”
Check back for updates on Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos jump, in which he will jump from a record 120,000 feet, hoping to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.
Boards of Canada ‘Dayvan Cowboy’ video