The Space Pioneers Who Paved the Way for Astronauts

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On August 16, 1960, over New Mexico, Capt. Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr. made the highest altitude drop in history. The automatic camera records the instant Capt. Kittinger bailed out of the balloon.

Years before NASA sent the first astronauts into space in 1961, U.S. Air Force service members were conducting strenuous, groundbreaking tests designed to explore our human ability to endure space travel. The new American Experience documentary “Space Men,” written and directed by Amanda Pollak, tells the story of how U.S. Air Force pioneers like Col. Joseph Kittinger paved the way for NASA and space travel during the 1950s. "Space Men" premieres on March 1st at 9 p.m. on PBS.