We were talking last week about the Austrian who jumped from a balloon 24 miles above the earth and set a speed record for skydiving before his parachute brought him safely to the ground. Like anything, someone had to be the first person to do something and with parachuting the first verified parachute jump was more by a Frenchman more than 200 years ago.

André-Jacques Garnerin thought air resistance could slow a person’s fall from a high altitude, so he designed a fabric parachute, 23-feet in diameter and attached it to a hydrogen balloon. Instead of in a backpack, this parachute was already deployed, strung to the top of the balloon with ropes. He tested it in front of a large crowd of people in Paris, rising to more than 3,000 feet, tied himself to the ropes, then jumped.

It didn’t go as smooth as he thought. He didn’t think about putting an air vent at the top of the parachute, so it spun in wild circles as he dropped to the ground. It was a rough ride down, and he landed about a half mile from where he intended, but he survived. It happened on this date in 1797.

Two years later his wife became the first female parachutist.

Later he made a jump from a mile and a half up.

His luck ran out in 1823. He was getting set to test a new parachute design when the balloon crashed and he was killed.


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