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Dear Fellow Explorers,
It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of legendary Club member Colonel Joseph “Joe” Kittinger, II MED ’63, a distinguished recipient of the 2001 Explorers Club Medal and an aerospace pioneer. Col. Kittinger passed away today – Friday, December 9, 2022, at the age of 94.
Joe Kittinger, a retired Air Force Colonel and Command Pilot, achieved in August 1960, what no human had done before – he proved that astronauts and fighter pilots could eject from high altitudes and still survive. He rose in a helium filled balloon to 102,800 feet, outfitted in a spacesuit, then jumped into the void of space – eclipsing 600 mph during a free-fall, finally releasing his parachute at 15,000 feet, floating to earth in the New Mexican desert, and proving that survival from extraordinarily high altitudes was a reality, an important component in the advancement of space exploration.
Col. Kittinger’s accomplishments often placed him in the history books.
Among his many accolades was being the first person to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic in a gas-powered balloon. He also was the first person to fully witness the curvature of the Earth.
He was an active member of The Explorers Club, and until recently regularly attended Florida Chapter meetings, participating in Club programs and events.
Joe will be greatly missed, but his achievements and legacy will long be admired and remembered by explorers throughout the world.
Richard Garriott de Cayeux
President, The Explorers Club