In 1960 Captain Joseph Kittinger jumped from a helium ballon at 102,800 feet (that’s just over 31km!) as a part of NASA’s Project Excelsior. At that time NASA wasn’t sure how the environment of the upper atmosphere would affect supersonic planes and pilots. So they sent up helium balloons hight into the atmosphere to conduct tests.
After they sorted out the kinks in a few dummies (the 1960’s version of Mythbuster’s Buster) Kittinger went up in a balloon to 102,800 feet. At this point, strapped with a few parachutes, video cameras and bunch of instruments he jumped. Here’s the video:
Kittinger set records for the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.
If that wasn’t enough to make you squeamish, this week Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner announced that on 8th of October, he’ll jump from a helium balloon at 120,000 in an attempt to break Joseph Kittinger’s record.
Good luck to Felix!