Imagine riding a balloon up to 96,000 feet. Joseph Kittinger took the ride. When at that amazing pinnacle he was ordered to start his descent, he kiddingly morse-coded back the message, “C-O-M-E-U-P-A-N-D-G-E-T-M-E.” That really freaked out ground control.
On a later project, Kittinger rode an open gondola to 20 miles above the earth (103,000 ft.)…and jumped. The details are fascinating (his fall lasted almost 14 minutes).
What drives a man to jump from space?
Scientific discovery certainly. The jump represented more than a daredevil’s thrill or a desire to break records; this was nascent space travel, the world’s first manned space program. Kittinger’s work with Projects Manhigh and Excelsior would study the physiological effects of space on a human subject and test the communications and logistics systems needed for sending a man on high. Before Project Mercury, before even the monkeys were launched into orbit, Joseph Kittinger would travel to the top of the world.
But it was more than that. It was manliness at work. The pioneering spirit. The explorer’s courage. The desire to go farther and higher, simply to see what is out there and what man is capable of. The need to push the limits of what is possible.