Project Stargazer was established in January 1959 for high-altitude astronomical investigation from above 95 percent of the earth's atmosphere, permitting undistorted visual and photographic observations of the stars and planets. On Dec. 13-14, 1962, Capt. Joseph Kittinger and Mr. William White made a flight to an altitude of 82,000 feet over New Mexico in the Stargazer gondola. In addition to obtaining valuable telescopic observations above the dense atmosphere of the earth, the flight provided valuable information relative to the development of pressure suits and associated life support systems during an extended period on the edge of space.
The balloon that supported the Stargazer capsule was a 280-foot diameter sphere of mylar film; however, at launch only a comparatively small bubble of helium gas occupied the top of the balloon with the remainder of the balloon envelope dangling beneath. As the balloon rose, the gas expanded, filling the balloon until at maximum altitude, it was completely filled and reshaped the envelope into a sphere. The gondola was supported below the balloon on a cable giving a total height at takeoff of approximately 400 feet.
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