Joseph William Kittinger II (born July 27, 1928) is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force and a USAF Command Pilot.
His initial operational assignment was in fighter aircraft, then he participated in Project Manhigh and Project Excelsior high altitude balloon flight projects from 1956 to 1960, setting a world record for the highest skydive from a height greater than 19 miles (31 km).
He was also the first man to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a gas balloon, and the first man to fully witness the curvature of the earth.
Kittinger served as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, and he achieved an aerial kill of a North Vietnamese MiG-21 jet fighter and was later shot down himself, spending 11 months as a prisoner of war in a North Vietnamese prison.
He participated in the Red Bull Stratos project as capsule communicator in 2012 at age 84, directing Felix Baumgartner on his record-breaking 24-mile (39 km) freefall from Earth's stratosphere.