This is my commemorative speech for speech class.
Imagine this, you jump into a balloon and take off. After an hour and 31 minutes you finally reach an altitude of 102,800 feet and then jump out armed only with a parachute. This is what a man named Joseph Kittinger did in 1960. And this was his third time doing so.
He started out flying as a test pilot for the Air Force (a dangerous job in itself) but was recruited for a project called Man High. In 1957 Kittinger took a balloon up to 96,000 feet to see if humans where actually able to survive in a space like environment, no one really knew for certain at the time. He paved the way for future manned spaceflights, and earned him his first Distinguished Cross.
After that he moved onto Project Excelsior. This project was designed to ensure that pilots of high altitude aircraft and space capsules, where able to eject and survive a extremely high altitude jump. In 1958 he took his first and almost his last jump. Taking a balloon back up to 76,000 feet he jumped out.
Unfortunately for him his stabilizer parachute opened up prematurely and wrapped around his neck. This caused him to spin out of control at 120 revolutions per minute giving him a feeling of 22 times the weight of gravity after all was said and done, his stabilizer parachute was actually supposed to prevent such a spin. He of course passed out, being spun like a tire on a car tends to do that to a person. But lucky enough for him his main parachute opened up automatically at 10,000 feet.
So since surviving his first attempt he did it again 25 days later with a better parachute design. Jumping out at 74,700 feet. He fell for 55,000 feet before pulling his chute. The test was a success but wasn't enough for Kittinger.
So on August 16, 1960 5:30 am Joseph Kittinger climbed into a foil balloon and set off. 5 Soaring up to an altitude of 102,800 feet into the stratosphere. 4 Experiencing temperatures at 94 degrees below Fahrenheit. 3 Loaded with equipment that doubled his weight . 2 Staring out into the blackness of space when it was daylight below. 1 Looking down at a plaque that read "This is the highest step in the world." 0 He took the final plunge. He fell for 4 minutes 36 seconds reaching a top speed faster than a speeding bullet at 614mph, before opening his parachute at 17,500 feet above the surface of the earth. This jump earned him his second Distinguished Cross.
It should be noted that while he was floating up for that jump a problem with his pressure suit caused his right hand to loss circulation and swell to twice it's normal size. But not wanting to abort he fought through the pain.
He did one more high altitude ballooning experiment called Project Stargazer. Floating up to 82,200 feet and staying there for 18 hours making atmospheric observations and testing redesigned life support equipment.
So not wanting his success to go to his head he volunteered for 3 tours in Vietnam flying a total of 483 combat missions. But his luck ran out one day when he was shot down and put into the infamous Hanoi Hilton. After spending 11 months in captivity he was finally returned to American hands.
He retired 7 years later and decided to start ballooning again. After winning some balloon races he became the first person to float across the Atlantic Ocean between Maine and Italy. He ended up flying in 78 different types of planes over the years and still flies to this day.
So in the time it took me to give this speech, Joseph Kittinger was freefalling down from the stratosphere closing in on the speed of sound before pulling his chute, a feat that has never been attempted since.
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