Colonel Joseph Kittinger is an inspiration and godfather of the Red Bull Stratos project. See some of the historic photos documenting his own freefall from the edge of space in 1960.

Joe Kittinger is a man with wings. To date, he has logged more than 16,800 hours of flying time in over 93 aircraft.

Joe is also 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. During a distinguished USAF career, Kittinger served as a test pilot, Squadron Commander and Vice Wing Commander.

In 1960, Joe Kittinger made the first freefall from the edge of space, jumping from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet, achieving four minutes and 36 seconds of air time, while reaching a maximum speed of 988kph before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet.



USAF Colonel Joe Kittinger inside the Excelsior gondola at Holloman Air Force Base, Alamogordo, New Mexico, United States of America in 1960.



USAF Colonel Joe Kittinger and the Astronomer William C. White seen during the project Stargazer, a balloon astronomy experiment, where they hovered with an open-gondola helium balloon packed with scientific equipment for 18.5 hours in 82,200 feet to check variations in brightness of star images on December 13-14, 1963.



Joe prior to his world-record-setting jump



The ground crew assists Colonel Joe Kittinger to remove his flight gear after the successful jump.



Same situation, four hours later... these space suits!


His outstanding achievement in 1960 has made Joe the obvious choice as the Mission Consultant for Red Bull Stratos, advising BASE-jumper “Austronaut” Felix Baumgartner for his120,000-foot supersonic descent from the edge of space.


Photos © National Museum of the US Air Force/Red Bull Content Pool


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