Who was the first man in space?

Who was the first man in space? Yuri Gagarin? If you don't like to recognize the accomplishments of the "red menace" then Alan B. Shepard is your man. Right?Who was the first man to "walk" in space? Aleksei Leonov? If you limit your point of view to Americans then you go with Ed White. Right?The correct answer may depend on what you classify as space.If 102, 800 feet or nearly 20 miles off the ground is high enough to be outer space than the first man in space, and the first man to walk in space is Joe Kittinger. He would also be the first person to break the sound barrier without the use of a plane.Confused? Let me explain.In 1960 Joe Kittinger was part of an Air Force program testing the effects of high altitudes on man. In his final jump he took a three-hour balloon ride to an altitude of 102, 800 feet and then:jumped.![][1]Kittinger confirmed Albert Einstein's "A Happy Idea." This theory stated that in space, when you are falling, you would have no sensation of effects of gravity. The only way Kittinger knew he was falling was to notice that there was an increasing distance between himself and his balloon.This is how the Air Force described the event. _ "In freefall for four and a half minutes, Kittinger fell at speeds up to 714 mph, exceeding the speed of sound. He experienced temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Kittinger opened his parachute at 18,000 feet and landed safely in the New Mexico desert after a 13 minute 45 second descent. _He broke the sound barrier, sans a vehicle.Joe Kittinger has some big brass ones. I can't find anyone who has ever heard of this guy, and what he did is truly amazing.Don't believe me? Watch the video [ here][2]I really feel like a wimp, I have yet to find the courage to jump out of airplane at a few thousand feet. In fact, it is getting a little embarrassing how long I have had this on my to do list, and reading about Kittinger is really making me feel pathetic. [1]: http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/campbell/skydive.jpg [2]: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-369888258105653405&q=%22First+man+In+Space+-+Skydiving+from+the+edge+of+the+world%22+playable%3Atrue


cvillehawk 12 years, 5 months ago

Amazing - I had never heard about that. How the hell did he survive the temperatures?

lazz 12 years, 5 months ago

AWESOME POST! Man, am I glad to hear another generation is discovering Joe Kittinger and appreciating the exploits of our space/aviation pioneers. Kittinger's plunge was the subject of a famous National Geographic package. Reams of material are available on the Internet. As they say, Read more about it! I was collecting stuff on him for awhile, considering doing a screenplay, until I found out one was already in the works. I saw a piece on him in, I think, the University of Florida alumni mag, I think as I recall he is still flying as a stunt pilot, or maybe an air racer (those speed-planes that race around in circles, way cool). Anyway, you can find tons of stuff about him and his exploits online. HOWEVER, also note that Gen. Yeager held (still does, I think) the record for free fall. He was riding the Lockheed F-104A Starfighter, preparing it for astronaut training missions, when it failed (complicated situation, but that's the shorthand) at 104,000 feet. He rode it to about 75K feet, was unable to recover from a flat spin, ejected, and, strapped into his seat, fell to 30K, at which point he deployed the seat's drag chute, but it failed and sheared. He continued falling to 6,000 feet, at which point he deployed his own chute, and at the same time chemical propellants had become lodged in his helmet and essentially burned half his face off. He more or less walked out of the desert. READ MORE ABOUT IT: http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/yea0int-7

AS FOR FIRST MAN IN SPACE: I support Kittinger, but a legitimate case can be made that if you step out of your craft and fall to Earth, you aren't yet in space. And, I think Major Joe Walker might have busted through 100,000 in 1958, in the X-15; in 1962 Major Bob White flew the X-15 to 314,000 feet, officially earning astronaut wings, and was the first to do so in a winged aircraft. Awesome stuff. Perhaps these feats of daring are dated and no longer relevant; I would argue that such courage should continue to define the American experience.

Todd 12 years, 5 months ago

Isn't the speed of sound variable considering altitude and air density/humidity? Also, if there's no air for sound to travel in technically he never broke the speed of sound right?

Now that the nit picking is over ;)

I think what's really interesting about the space race records the equipment, money, and danger involved in achieving them. In 50 years we'll look out the window of our space planes and think about how for a day's salary we are breaking all the space-race records ourselves. Now that's interesting.

Keith Campbell 12 years, 5 months ago


A pressurized suit is how he survived. Here is a link with more information about Kittinger.The link has a picture of him in his suit.


It is interesting this site says he just missed the speed of sound. The Air Force says he reached it...


I spent a little time on research to see if Kittinger still holds the record for the highest parachute jump. I found some information about a Frenchman (Michel Fournier) trying to break the record a few years ago, but I couldn't find anything to confirm he actually did it. There is a chance that this is still the record for the highest altitude for a parachute jump. Do you know?

lazz 12 years, 5 months ago

This page indicates he still holds the record for highest-altitude parachute jump from a balloon. It includes the odd qualification "plastic balloon," but goes on to say that "the record" likely won't be broken anytime soon. http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2004/JerardKneifatiHayek.shtml

At the time I was trying to collect info on him, he still had the record. But, like all aviation-related records, there are so many qualifiers that can attached to various achievements that it becomes difficult to keep straight. I just checked the Guinness Book site, and they say Kittinger has the longest delay for opening, in this jump, at 84,000 feet, so I was apparently wrong that Yeager's 70,000 was the record. Again, who knows what all the complicated variables might be. It's all equally amazing.

Fritz 12 years, 5 months ago

At the beginning of the space race, there was no really agreed upon definition of where "space" began. Lots of research craft where poking around the extreme high altitudes, but they were all of course designed to operate within the earth's atmosphere. However, Yuri Gargarin orbiting the earth (somewhere in the 150-200 miles up range)...this was in the "running while everybody else was crawling" category. Sometime later, it was determined by whatever bureacracy in charge of this sort of thing that since at 60 miles up you have about 99.99% of the earth's atmosphere below you, so that is the boundary of space (hence the altitude Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne had to reach to win the X-prize). A lot of X-15 pilots were retroactively awarded their astronaut's wings because they had puched through 60 miles in the X-15 on flights in the late 50's and early 60's.

The video of Kittinger jumping is just amazing...I remember seeing it years ago. Of course, it was his only way back down to earth. I think the true moment of courage is when he let them strap him into that tin can in the first place...

Actually, I believe he was supposed to ride the balloon back down again, but if you watch the footage carefully, you can see him accidently knock his six-pack of Bud Light out the door. So, again, what other choice did he have?

Another cool parachute tale: "The Man Who Rode the Thunder" by William H. Rankin, Prentice Hall, 1960. Rankin is the one who bailed out of his F8U Crusader while at about 60,000 ft. He was flying over a thunderstorm that topped out and 50,000 ft. It took him about thirty minutes to fall completely through the storm. The description of what he saw and felt in the storm is amazing.

Here's a cool website about other amazing jumps, some with, and some without the chutes deploying: http://www.greenharbor.com/fffolder/ffreading.html

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