Ever heard of Colonel Joseph Kittinger? No? That's alright, most people haven't. However, Kittinger's accomplishments with the US Military and NASA could be argued that they had as much impact as the Moon landing. Kittinger belonged to a military experiment known as "Project Excelsior". The project was designed to research high altitude bailouts. He made a series of three parachute jumps wearing a pressurized suit, from a helium balloon with an open gondola.
I'll let wikipedia tell you the rest.
"The first, from 76,400 feet (23,287 m) in November, 1959 was a near tragedy when an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness, but the automatic parachute saved him (he went into a flat spin at a rotational velocity of 120 rpm; the g-force at his extremities was calculated to be over 22 times that of gravity, setting another record). Three weeks later he jumped again from 74,700 feet (22,769 m). For that return jump Kittinger was awarded the Leo Stevens parachute medal.
On August 16, 1960 he made the final jump from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet (31,330 m). Towing a small drogue chute for stabilization, he fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds reaching a maximum speed of 714 mph (1149 km/h) before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, causing his hand to swell. He set records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (14 min), and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere.
The jumps were made in a "rocking-chair" position, descending on his back, rather than the usual arch familiar to skydivers, because he was wearing a 60-lb "kit" on his behind and his pressure suit naturally formed that shape when inflated, a shape appropriate for sitting in an airplane cockpit.
For the series of jumps, Kittinger was decorated with an oak leaf cluster to his D.F.C. and awarded the Harmon Trophy by President Dwight Eisenhower."
Yes, that's right. The man jumped from 102,800 ft in the air. To give you a little idea how far that is, it's 19 1/2 miles in the air...total blackness. At that altitude he stated he could see the curvature of the earth and look in each direction for 400 miles. He also could see no stars in the sky because of the blinding sun. At 714 mph, he became the only man to EVER break the sound barrier without the use of an aircraft. He also stated that at no time during the 4 minute and 36 second fall that he had no sense of speed and felt like he was floating. He also experienced temperatures of -96 degree Fahrenheit.
So that alone is enough to call this man a badass, but wait, there's more to his life. After the jump, he decided to go to Vietnam and served two tours. Deciding that was enough, he volunteered for a third tour for a total of 438 missions. During his third tour he became one of the first US pilots to shoot down a MIG-21 and shortly thereafter, was shot down and spent 11 months in the Hanoi Hilton with John McCain. While in captivity, Kittinger decided that he wanted to fly across the Atlantic in a balloon. Shortly after his release, he did that and became the first man to cross the Atlantic by balloon. What could be more badass than this? The fact that this mother fucker is still alive and flying todayhttp://www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/AsSeenOnG
Footage from the jump was used in the Boards of Canada video "Dayvan Cowboy":http://youtube.com/watch?v=A2zKARkpDW4
In his honor I decided to make a compilation based on what it must've been like to know you were leaving earth (1-3), floating to the top of earth(4-7), staying there until just the right point (8-10), jumping (10-11), floating (12 - 15), and then landing nearly 14 minutes later (16-18).