Jumping with Joe from the highest step. Skydiving from outer space. On August 16, 1960 Joe Kittinger ascended to 102,800 feet (31,300 M) above the Earth's surface. He was, essentially, touching outer space and then....he jumped. In free fall for 4-1/2 minutes he reached a speed of 612 mph (988 kmh) - nearly the speed of sound. No human has ever gone faster without a machine surrounding and protecting him. Kittinger had no protection. The term "balls of steel' does not do him justice.