Joe Kittinger's appetite for adrenaline rushes may have subsided since he jumped out of the Excelsior III from 31,300 meters (102,800 feet) in the air in 1960, but it didn't keep him for being involved in Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking jump in 2012.
Kittinger, a former colonel in the United States Air Force, was recruited in the late '50s for space-related aviation research, and was the first to complete a high-altitude jump.
Drawing on the knowledge and memories from his skydives more than 50 years ago, Kittinger served as the flight operations and safety manager with Red Bull Stratos, which was responsible for making Baumgartner's 38,969-meter (128,851-foot) free fall possible.
Using a stratospheric balloon, Baumgartner ascended to nearly 40,000 meters before jumping from a 1,450-kilogram capsule and free falling for more than four minutes. During his fall back to earth, Baumgartner reached speeds of 1,357.64 kilometers per hour. Kittinger served as capsule communicator and spoke with Baumgartner throughout the mission.
"I made a jump in 1960 before the space program started to gather information we needed for the space program, and also to accomplish a means of escape from high altitude," said Kittinger in an interview with the Straight during the launch of the Red Bull Stratos exhibit at Science World.
"We accomplished both of those objectives, but it took 52 years before my record was broken."
It took five years of training under Kittinger before Baumgartner made the jump. The veteran said it was a thrill to be a part of Red Bull Stratos, even if it meant watching his record get smashed.
The exhibit at Science World features a capsule from a manned test flight that took place before Baumgartner's record-setting jump, and the space suit he wore during the jump.
Check out a preview of the show and a short interview with Kittinger in the video below.
Red Bull Stratos will be on display at Science World until April 26.