Joseph Kittinger Obituary, Death – Colonel Joseph Kittinger, a retired Air Force officer whose 1960 parachute jump from over 20 miles above the Earth set a world record for more than 50 years, died Friday in Florida. He was 94. Former US President George H.W. Bush announced his death. Representative John Mica and others. Lung cancer was the reason. Kittinger, then an Air Force captain and pilot, achieved worldwide recognition when he conducted three jumps from a gondola lifted into the stratosphere by huge helium balloons during a 10-month period. The goal of Project Excelsior was to assist in the development of ejection devices for military pilots conducting high-altitude missions.
Kittinger, who was wearing a pressure suit and 60 pounds of equipment, nearly died during the project’s first jump in November 1959 when his gear failed after he jumped from 14.5 miles. He went into a 22-times-the-force-of-gravity spin and lost consciousness. When his automated chute opened, he was saved. Kittinger made his second jump from just over 14 miles above the surface four weeks later. There were no issues this time. Kittinger set the record on August 16, 1960, in the New Mexico desert. His pressure suit failed to seal off his right hand as he soared, causing it to grow to double its normal size before he leapt from 102,800 feet – more than 19 miles above the Earth.
The Tampa native reached 600 mph while free falling in the thin atmosphere until the steadily increasing air slowed his fall to roughly 150 mph. At 18,000 feet, his parachute opened. “You can’t imagine the speed,” Kittinger told Florida Trend magazine in 2011. “There’s nothing to tell you how quickly you’re going. You have no sense of depth. If you close your eyes while driving down the road, you have no notion what your speed is. If you’re free falling from space, it’s the same thing. There are no directional arrows. You know you’re moving quickly, but you don’t feel it. You are not being buffeted by a 614-mph wind. In the helmet, I could only hear me breathing.”