November 18, 2019
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U.S. Air Force: The First Space Jump

Space is hostile. It’s very hostile to man. Blood boils at 65,000 feet. the POSIX shelter was the
first time anybody was outside of a spacecraft in a space environment. I’m
Joe Kittinger I spent 29 years in the United States Air Force. Half my career was
spent in research development, worked as a test pilot. The other half was a
fighter pilot. I was a POSIX officer on Project Excelsior. The two objectives of
Project Excelsior was first, how to protect a man in a space environment and,
second of all, how to provide the means of escape in very high altitude. When a
person ejects extremely high altitude, he is liable to spin. And the higher you
eject, the more spinning you could do. Unfortunately we didn’t have aircraft
that would go that high, the only thing that could get up that high was a balloon
vehicle. The take-off was in the morning at about six o’clock. The climb time from
takeoff to 102,000 feet was about an hour and a half. And at forty
thousand feet, which is where my pressure suit inflates, and I said I discovered
that a pressure suit glove in my right hand was not working. I knew that if I told
the people on the ground that it wasn’t working, that they’d make me abort the flight.
So I opted not to tell the people on the ground that I had this problem. I could
not use my right hand during the flight, everything I’d used my left hand. It
swelled up about twice its normal size. Well the sign on the bottom of the
gondola was, this is the highest step in space. I think about being at a hundred and
two thousand feet, it was a very interesting experience for me to sit
there and look at the horizon, and I can see all over four hundred miles from that altitude. My guy on the ground said “okay we’re over the position, you’re
cleared to jump” and I jumped. I fell for, it seemed like I wasn’t moving at all,
there was critical velocity, there’s nothing you can see, so I rolled
over my back, I looked up and I saw the balloon flying into space, I said “my gosh
that’s amazing” then suddenly I realized that the balloon was sitting still and I
was going down at a fantastic rate. And then the small drogue chute came out and I free-fell stabilized from that altitude all the way down to 14,000
feet with my main parachute open. And then it was just a question of getting down to the
ground. When I landed, my team was right there, immediately we were just ecstatic
because we had accomplished what we set out to do. We had shown that man could go into
space and work properly, we showed that we could protect him in a space environment.
We showed that we could get a man down from a high altitude. So there were a lot
of firsts on the program. And as a result of this test, today, some fifty four years
later, every ejection seat in the world uses a small drogue chute to stabilize a
freefall from high altitude. We were breaking barriers, we were setting new
goals, and then exceeding those goals.

Tony wyaad