There’s something about guys we think are fearless that we really respect and admire. Men who break the sound barrier. Men who reach the moon-knowing fully that it’d never been done before and they could die alone in space. We want to be like men we’ve read about in history that put it all on the line despite what they feared. They each couldn’t blindly ignore fear-they had to choose to face it and have a strategy to overcome fear.
Earlier this week I suddenly needed to know what would happen to me if I was exposed to the vacuum of space. Would my face explode and my butt turn inside out? Would my eyes pop-out and my blood boil? Well, I found out none of that would happen, and along the way I read about this total badass named Joseph Kittinger.
Introducing Joseph Kittinger – The Man Who Fell From Space
Joseph Kittinger was exposed to the near vacuum of space. This guy, years before the moon mission, opted in to see what it was like for humans to be exposed to solar rays and if they could function in the stratosphere.
So the dude road a freaking balloon 19 miles high. That’s 102,800 feet. In a gondola thing. Attached to balloons. BALLOONS. Talk about ganas. Talk about a man that had to overcome fear. He was floating around in the stratosphere for 7 hours.
This pic wasn’t taken from a space station (it was 1960). It was taken from Kittinger’s HELMET CAM. You know, he’s flying so high he could see the curvature of the earth??
Kittinger did this as a part of Project Excelsior. While floating up to near-space, his right glove ruptured exposing his hand to near-vacuum. He said his hand swelled to twice normal size. And it was useless. But the dude just kept on with the mission. Climbing another 57,000 feet, instead of bailing out then he chose to overcome fear. Me, well I think I just had a nightmare just reading about vacuum exposure.
Cold and Lonely
While at the top of his ascent Joe was exposed to -94 degree Fahrenheit. Talk about cold and alone. Isn’t that when people really feel afraid and have to overcome fear?
Once Joe jumped out of his big air balloon, it took him nearly 15 minutes to return back to earth. After 13 seconds he deployed a small (6 ft) parachute just so he wouldn’t spin out of control. Still, his body reached 614 mph. HE REACHED 90% OF MACH 1-THE SPEED OF SOUND. 4 minutes 36 seconds later, he’s still falling. At 30,000 feet he opens ANOTHER parachute so he slows down enough not to explode on Earth’s surface. Finally, another 8 minutes later he’s walking around on dirt.
Too Many Fears to Overcome?
Think about it. Really sit down and think about it. What would it be like to be outside of 95% atmosphere? Above 19 miles, the density of atmosphere left is only 5%. It’s sub-zero. Ultra-violet radiation is high. And no one before you has ever been exposed to it like that. They don’t even know what it will do to a man’s psychology. At 43,000 feet your right hand doubles in size. At 70,000 feet you have trouble breathing. But you keep riding this freaking gondola into near-space, look down, and aim your body back at the Earth. And jump.
How is it even possible to overcome fear like that? All it’s intricacies slamming every piece of your mind? How do you get peace of mind?
I think it takes a special man to do what Joseph Kittinger did. Here’s what we can learn-he was confident about his mission because of the meticulous planning that went into it. The plan was so thoroughly thought through they’d made a contingency for every possible doomsday situation they could think of. The team, and Kittinger, was prepared.
When you face fears, it’s easy to run. That’s usually more comfortable than staring it in the face. Sometimes, that’s what we must do. If we’re going to make decision in life that takes all we have, including tearing through our insecurities, our deepest inner struggles, and our deepest fears, you’ve got to look fear in the eye. You don’t scream. You don’t shout. You think. You prepare. And you plan. If you want to face and overcome fear, you may have to do just that.