Space diving: The ultimate extreme sport

时间:2019-03-01 01:02:02166网络整理admin

By David L. Chandler AS CAPTAIN Joe Kittinger of the US air force stood on the edge of the hatch, 31 kilometres above the Earth, he must have wondered if he was about to make a fatal mistake. On the way up, the gloved hand of his pressure suit had banged against a strut, breaking the airtight seal that would be essential for his survival on the way down. Kittinger, a veteran of two previous record-breaking parachute jumps, didn’t tell anyone. He knew that if the officers on the ground found out, they would cancel his attempt, and he didn’t want that. With classic test-pilot bravado, he was determined to grit his teeth and give it a go. Exposed to the near-vacuum of the stratosphere, around three times as high as the cruising altitude of passenger jets, his hand throbbed with fierce pain as it swelled to twice its normal size. As it turned out, the swelling saved his life: it plugged the sleeve of his pressure suit, sealing it and protecting his body from fatal decompression. Kittinger pushed away from the gondola of his balloon, and in the thin air was soon falling at almost 1000 kilometres per hour. About 5 kilometres above the ground, he opened his main parachute, and 13 minutes and 45 seconds after leaving the gondola he landed safely. Within four hours, the swelling in his hand had subsided. The year was 1960, the project was called Excelsior, and Kittinger’s risky feat set an altitude record for skydiving that is unchallenged to this day. Not for much longer, though,