I’m sure many of you have been following, or at least seen, the Red Bull Stratos jump today. Felix Baumgartner broke several world records related to high-altitude jumping when he leaped from about 128,000 feet.

Previous record holder and Baumgartner’s main contact during the jump was Colonel Joseph Kittinger II, a University of Florida alumni. Kittinger attended UF for two years before joining the U.S. Air Force.

He spent time flying in West Germany, before eventually being reassigned to the Air Force Missile Development Center and then the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories. There Kittinger become the jumper for the Excelsior missions, designed to test the effects of high altitude and G-forces on Air Force pressure suits and the human body.

On the third mission, Kittinger set the previous records for longest free-fall, highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere. Even more incredibly, the hand of his suit depressurized and his hand swelled to twice it’s normal size on the way up, where he jumped anyway.

While Baumgartner broke the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere, he only free-fell for 4 minutes and 22 seconds, 14 seconds shy of Kittinger’s record.

Kittinger maintains that it’s not about the records now any more than it was when he jumped, and that the primary reason was to allow high-altitude medical and scientific research to be done.

Just goes to show that the Gator Nation really is everywhere, from 102,800 feet and down again.

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