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Kittinger's record-breaking skydive from Excelsior III
Credit: United States Air Force

Captain Joseph Kittinger steps from a balloon-supported gondola at the altitude of 102,800 feet (31.3 km), or almost 20 miles on August 16, 1960, as part of Project Excelsior, a series of high-altitude parachute jumps, testing a system that would allow a safe controlled descent after a high-altitude aircraft ejection. In freefall for 4.5 minutes at speeds up to 625 mph (1,005 km/h) and temperatures as low as −94°F (−70°C), he opened his parachute at 17,500 feet (5.3 km). The whole descent took 13 minutes and 45 seconds. This is the current world record for the highest parachute jump and was the longest freefall until Adrian Nicholas broke the record in 1998 with a wing suit skydive lasting 4 minutes 55 seconds.

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