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January 23, 2006

This is the highest step in the world


Ace of Spades HQ writes about Joe Kittinger. The man had balls of steel (via Dean's World).

So, in 1960, this cat ascends to 30km above the earth in a balloon and.... jumps. He accelerates to 900 mph (I guess terminal velocity's a lot higher when the air is thin) He actually broke the sound barrier, without a vehicle.

He was testing to see if high-g acceleration would kill him, by the way. It didn't, but he didn't know that when he agreed to try it.

990 kph, actually, but such is to quibble. This is a man I should have learned about in school and did not.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at January 23, 2006 08:47 AM

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Col. John Stapp is cool for similar reasons (rocket sled tests).

I remember reading a history of space shuttle development that talked about rescue options that were considered. The range was from "none" (what we have now) to having a full capsule capable of re-entry on its own (too heavy). One was particularly cool: a single-person re-entry capsule. Except it wasn't a whole capsule; it was something that would be unfolded to just barely protect a single spacesuited astronaut. In short, orbital skydiving. I'd love to know more about that idea......

Posted by: JohnAnnArbor [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2006 03:19 PM

Stapp I knew about. Thanks, Nick, for this one.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2006 09:37 PM

Kittinger didn't break the speed of sound. It's not a static number, but varies according to air density/temperature.

For instance, the speed of sound measured at sea level is 661.5 kts (1225.0 kmh), but at an altitude of 98,425 ft (30 km), where the air is cold and far less dense, the speed of sound is 586.5 kts (1086.2 kmh).

Doesn't lessen his bravery one iota, and he certainly approached the speed of sound, but he didn't break it.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2006 07:09 AM

I saw this on PBS a couple of years ago. IIRC, he froze his hand during this jump.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2006 07:40 PM