Joe Kittinger’s 102,800-Foot Jump Predates The First Man In Space (VIDEO)

Joe Kittinger’s 102,800-Foot Jump Predates The First Man In Space (VIDEO)

April 12 marks the 50th anniversary of the first man in space. The honor goes to Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961, exited Earth’s atmosphere in the Vostok spacecraft and completed an orbit of Earth before descending.

But shortly before Gagarin’s mission, 32-year-old American Colonel Joe Kittinger completed a death-defying Air Force mission that, some argue, qualifies him as the first man in space.

On August 16, 1960, Kittinger donned a pressurized suit and rode a helium balloon craft to a height of 102,800 feet–almost at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere–and jumped.

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