This story gives the term Test Pilot a whole new meaning.
Joe Kittinger is not a household aviation name like Neil Armstrong or Chuck Yeager. But what he did for the U. S. space program is comparable. On Aug. 16, 1960, as research for the then-fledgling U. S. space program, Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger rode a helium balloon to the edge of space, 102,800 feet above the earth, a feat in itself.
Then, wearing just a thin pressure suit and breathing supplemental oxygen, he leaned over the cramped confines of his gondola and jumped–into the 110-degree-below-zero, near-vacuum of space. Within seconds his body accelerated to 714mph in the thin air, breaking the sound barrier.