I got a lump in my throat when I heard the vocal interaction between 43-year-old Felix Baumgartner and 84-year-old Joe Kittinger Sunday.
Former Austrian paratrooper Baumgartner jumped from more than 24 miles above Earth, breaking the speed of sound before he released his parachute.
As New York Times reporter John Tierney wrote under the title “24 Miles, 4 Minutes and 834 mph, All in One Jump”: “He stepped off into the void and plummeted for more than four minutes, reaching a maximum speed measured at 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24.”
While millions watched, Baumgartner broke the altitude and speed records set by Col. Kittinger in 1960, who was in the control room in Roswell, N.M.
Kittinger was an adviser and the voice of mission control.
I don’t know why I was so touched by their voices. I think what brought tears to my eyes (probably allergies or something like that) was Kittinger’s deep confident voice as he walked Baumgartner through a 40-item checklist — every mundane, but crucial move that Baumgartner would make before stepping out of the capsule and plummeting toward the ground.
One would expect a confident commanding voice from a decorated veteran of three combat tours of duty during the Vietnam War, flying a total of 483 missions, including being shot down in 1972 and spending 11 months as a POW in Hanoi, enduring rope torture.