Project Excelsior was a series of high-altitude parachute jumps made by Colonel (then Captain) Joseph Kittinger of the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1959 and 1960 to test the Beaupre multi-stage parachute system. In one of these jumps 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.
The highest parachute jump ever made was done by U.S. Air Force Captain Joseph W. Kittinger Jr. on Aug. 16, 1960 over New Mexico.
Kittinger, who was doing high-altitude escape experiments for the air force, jumped from the gondola of an air balloon hovering 102,800 feet above sea level.
That’s 19 miles up in the air!
Kittenger’s free fall lasted more than 4 1/2 minutes, during which he reached a peak falling speed of 614 mph, the fastest any human has traveled—without a plane!
The jump was a Life magazine cover story in 1960 and the magazine recognized the 40th anniversary of the jump in August 2000.