June 10, 2017

1957. Project Manhigh

Manhigh II Launches to the Stratosphere
"David G. Simons in the capsule for the Man High program in Minneapolis," 1957 (source)
Bill Downs covered the Air Force's Project Manhigh operation in Minnesota in 1957. Below is the script he wrote for CBS News' television coverage of the launch.
Bill Downs

CBS News

August 19, 1957

This is Bill Downs at the mobile headquarters of Operation Manhigh—the command nerve center responsible for the safety of a man riding the stratosphere in that tiny dot of a balloon; who for the next 24 hours will make aviation history in proving that man can work and survive in the last platform of the earth's atmosphere some 20 miles high.

Suspended in a vacuum-sealed capsule hanging from that plastic balloon is Dr. David Simons, a major in the US Air Force and chief of the space biology branch of the Holloman Air Development Center. Both the balloon and space capsule were designed in Minneapolis by the Winzen Research Corporation.

Actually the plastic which holds the hydrogen gas is the same kind of plastic every housewife is familiar with when she buys polyethylene sacks of vegetables at the supermarket.

However, this balloon has a capacity of three million cubic feet when it reaches full expansion in the stratosphere, enough to contain two large-sized supermarkets. In launching position, the bag stretches as high as a 25 story building.

The launching pit is 400 feet deep. The delicate balloon was brought to this open pit so that it could avoid ground-level winds at the time of the launching.

The space capsule is actually a giant aluminum vacuum, or thermos bottle. It would maintain the temperature of some 350 gallons of hot coffee or iced tea. The three-layered space capsule is built that way not only to provide Dr. Simons with an atmosphere he can breathe, but also to protect him against the extreme heat of the sun, which rises to some 250 degrees in the stratosphere, and against the extreme cold of the night, which at 20 miles high goes down to 70 degrees below zero.

Consequently what you have here is a gigantic plastic vegetable bag filled with hydrogen lifting a 350 gallon thermos bottle containing a man to ride the stratosphere for the next 24 hours in the interest of science.

There she goes, rising at a thousand feet per minute, or about the same speed as an express elevator in a modern skyscraper.

This is, in a way, the longest elevator ride in history.