Le Grand Saut

Michel Fournier (b. 1944) is an adventurer and retired French Air Force colonel. He has been involved in planning several attempts to break freefall jumping height records, but has yet to be successful. In 1998, the French space agency chose Fournier to conduct a record jump to test the ability of astronauts to survive reentry without a space craft. This project was quickly canceled. In 2003, Fournier attempted his first privately-financed jump but the balloon ripped while being filled. ‘The New York Times’ reports that Fournier has spent nearly $20 million on his two private attempts.

Fournier was scheduled to carry out the Grand Saut (Big Jump) project in 2008, which would have seen him ascend to 40 km (25 mi) in a balloon and freefall 34 km (21 mi) to earth before opening his parachute at 6 km (3.7 mi). In the process he was expected to break the sound barrier, and reach speeds upward of 1,000 miles per hour. His freefall was expected to last 15 minutes. Joseph Kittinger set the previous parachute record by jumping from 31,333 meters (102,799 ft) in 1960 (with a small parachute for guidance) under Project Excelsior. Roger Eugene Andreyev from the Soviet Union holds the longest freefall record of 24,483 meters (80,325 ft) in 1962.

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