As a boy he wanted to fly. His plane ride in a “little old Ford two motor job” only enhanced that desire. Flying was his dream and since that time the accomplishment list has awed many.
In 1949 Joe enlisted in the Air Force from the time at that $1.50 ride he was enamored by aviation. He spent his youth around planes – flying was to be his life.
During his years as a test pilot, Joe volunteered to test a parachute that was to be used by astronauts. With calm courage he dramatically fell several miles, thus evoking the comment from aerospace doctor Paul Stamp, “Joe is the bravest man alive.”
At age 28 in 1957 in the early dawn Joe boarded a small gondola under a high balloon. He was to test man’s endurance in space.
Upward he went more than eighteen miles; it was the highest man had ever gone and he became known as
“the first man in space”.
A brush with death came while flying an F-100. The plane went out of control, crashed and burned. Joe had bailed out at 1000 feet and not even a scratch!
Later in 1960 he rode another balloon to the height of 102,000 feet. Wearing a bulky pressure suit he climbed out of the balloon. He descended for four minutes 38 seconds, finally reached the speed of 614 MPH, even through there was a drag chute which was used to slow his descent When asked about his fall, he said, “I didn’t have time to worry ” This gave Colonel Kittinger the record for the highest jump and longest free fall. Later he was given the credit for testing the parachute which would be used by astronauts in the event that an ejection was necessary.