Colonel Joe Kittinger is probably best known for his work with projects Excelsior and Manhigh, which culminated in a record setting parachute jump from the edge of space. In truth, this was only one highlight of a colorful life filled with daring and record-setting aeronautics.
Kittinger was a career aviator for the US military. His time as a research and test pilot contributed to the development of new flight safety equipment, as well as breaking ground for a fledgling NASA. (His famous leap starting, in a way, with the first space walk.) He served as a fighter pilot in Europe as well as Vietnam, where, after being shot down during a combat mission, he was held prisoner of war.
Following his release and return as a hero, Kittinger would eventually find his way back to ballooning. In addition to winning a number of competitive balloon races, he would go on to become the first man to pilot a balloon solo across the Atlantic. In his later years, the Colonel and his wife turned to barnstorming: flying from town to town in an open-cockpit plane, delighting fans at events and airshows.
The life of Colonel Joe Kittinger has not been a dull one. To call him a daredevil might seem fitting, but may equally do the man a disservice. He was a risk taker, but not necessarily in a haphazard or reckless way. He set goals and pursued them with bravery, dedication, and more than a little bit of luck.
Joe Kittinger was truly a man who lived to fly. Come Up and Get Me will appeal easily to fans of aviation, ballooning, and military history.