Balloons were flown to extreme altitudes in Projects Manhigh and Excelsior, starting shortly after the film debuted. In the latter, then-Captain Joseph Kittinger successfully completed a jump of 103,000 feet, free-falling for more than 4 minutes with only a small drogue chute, something similar to a kite's tail, to prevent him from spinning. Despite suffering severe bruising from the extreme low pressure trauma experienced at that altitude (similar to "sea" level on Mars), and frostbite from the extreme cold (almost 100F below zero) Kittinger was none the worse for his dangerous adventure. See more »
I assume this film won't appeal to everyone. It's a bit cerebral and a bit slow, but a very important movie historically. The title of the film refers to the experiments that made even the consideration of space travel possible. In other words, the film is NOT about early rockets or the space program, but experiments on the suitability of humans for the harsh demands this or ultra-high speed planes would put on their bodies. Two particular scientific programs run by the air force are featured here--high speed rocket sled trials as well as super high-altitude balloon flights combined with insanely dangerous parachute drops from as high at 100,000 feet! For folks like me who are fascinated by airplanes and space travel, this film is a must-see. And, instead of the typical science fiction film of the day, this is all based on scientific fact--feats that even today seem extraordinary. What I particularly liked, other than the story, is that the film did NOT rely on grainy stock footage--everything looked very real. And, on top of that, the acting and direction were excellent.
While teens and kids might not sit still for this sort of film, try to get them to. It's highly educational and makes you really appreciate these men and their brave deeds.
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