A Giant Leap

gondola jump

In 1960, my grandfather ascended to 102,800 feet in a gondola lifted by a polymer balloon and, after saying a brief prayer, jumped. He fell for more than 4 minutes before landing safely in the desert of New Mexico, proving that people could survive the hostility of space, and pioneering technology to protect human life in that environment. Years later, a reporter asked Alan Shepard—the first American in space—if he would have jumped. “Hell no,” he said. (Keep reading at Science.)

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