One of the most famous manned High Altitude Balloon missions is that of Captain Joe Kittinger. On August 16, 1960, he made the ascent in Excelsior III to 102,800 feet. He was equipped with a pressurised suit and small stabilising parachute. He made his descent by simply stepping from the gondola and it took a mere 4 minutes and 36 seconds. In this jump Kittinger set world records for the highest parachute jump, the longest parachute drogue fall and the fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere, all of which still stand.
Right: Kittinger readies himself for a high-altitude jump, standing beside the Excelsior gondola. The sign at the lower edge of the gondola says: “This is the highest step in the world.” (© U.S. Air Force Museum)
Left: Joseph Kittinger’s high-altitude jump in 1960 (© U.S. Air Force Museum)
The Wright brothers did not launch their manned plane flight until 17 December 1903. So hot air ballooning existed over 120 years before aeroplanes!
Yorkshireman Robert Harrison is one of the leading men when it comes to High altitude ballooning, having received interest and recognition from NASA for his Icarus project. He currently holds the world record for the highest HAB flight at 22 miles and has launched 12 HABs since 2008.
The most common type of high altitude balloons are weather balloons.
Over the last decade, high altitude ballooning projects have become increasingly popular with amateur radio enthusiasts; it is a relatively low budget hobby with outstanding results.
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