Colonel Joseph Kittinger made history, on August 16, 1960, when he surpassed the altitude record, ascending to 102,800 feet in Excelsior III, an open gondola. During his ascend, Kittinger experienced temperatures as low as negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit, which he combated with layers of clothes and a pressure suit. Kittinger’s successful flight proved to the world that man could function in near-space and parachute from very high altitudes. Kittinger set four world records with this flight. “It was the highest step in the world!”
During a distinguished USAF career, Kittinger served as a test pilot, Squadron Commander, and Vice Wing Commander, and spent 11 months as a POW in Vietnam. Kittinger served as a consultant for Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand, offering his knowledge and expertise related to balloon navigation, communication, handling fatigue and cold weather.
On September 14 through September 18, 1984, Kittinger set another world record when he flew his helium-filled balloon, “Rosie O’Grady’s Balloon of Peace,” from Caribou, Maine, USA to Cairo Montenotte, taly, on the first solo transatlantic balloon flight.
The total flight time was 3 days, 11 hours and 45 minutes. Kittinger set two new world records with this flight: the longest solo balloon flight and a distance record for the type of balloon used.
Kittinger retired as a Colonel and subsequently set two world ballooning records and won numerous ballooning competitions. Kittinger also served as Felix Baumgartner’s mentor, and proved to be a valuable asset as “Capcom” (capsule communications) and
Mission Control’s primary point of radio contact during Baumgartner’s ascent on October 14, 2012.
Kittinger is a National Aeronautics Association Elder Statesman of Aviation, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement in Aviation trophy from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, was made an Honorary U.S. Army Golden Knight, and is enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the U.S. Ballooning Hall of Fame and the National Skydiving Museum Hall
of Fame. To date, Kittinger has logged more than 16,800 hours of flying time in over 93 aircraft. His adventurers are detailed in his autobiography, “Come Up and Get Me.”