For the Excelsior III mission, Kittinger rose to an altitude of 102,800 feet, or 19.5 miles above sea level. He stayed there in the open gondola for 12 minutes, enduring temperatures as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and severe pain in his right hand because his glove had failed to inflate. When he jumped, according to the U.S. government's Centennial of Flight account, his 6-foot drogue parachute deployed 13 seconds later to stabilize against a potentially fatal spin; his main, 28-foot parachute would open 4 minutes, 36 seconds later, at which point he was only about 17,500 feet above the Earth.
In the freefall, Kittinger traveled as fast as 614 miles per hour, remarkably close to the speed of sound. It was only his 33rd parachute jump. This picture shows him starting his descent.
July 5, 2010 6:00 AM PDT
Photo by: U.S. Air Force archives
| Caption by: Jonathan Skillings
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