With a space suit as his only protection, a man is standing at the edge of an open gondola attached to a balloon. The Earth is 30 kilometers below him. He leans forward, jumps out, accelerates in free fall for nearly five minutes and is the first – and to this day the only – person to have reached speeds of more than 900 kilometers per hour.
Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico (USA), the late Fifties. A research program to send man into space with balloons to study his reactions set as many as six records between 1957 and 1960. But the launch of the Sputnik in October 1957 officially marked the beginning of the space race, and men like Yuri Gagarin, Alan Shepard, John Glenn made history and became the icons of space travel.
Joe Kittinger and David Simons were the first humans in space, but they are virtually unknown. Years before the astronauts conquered space with their rockets, these US Air Force pilots took the first, crucial steps into space exploration. Their lives quite literally depended on a thin sheet of plastic – because that was what the huge balloons that carried them to such high altitudes were made of!
With the help of original footage and interviews with the balloon pilots, this exciting and fact-filled film reveals the engineers’ technical achievements and shows how their findings are being used to this day.