Daughter of former skydive record holder speaks

Orange Park man helped pave way for Sunday's record

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's the jump from the edge of space that still has people talking.

An Austrian man jumped from more than 24 miles in the sky, falling for more than four minutes and reaching speeds of more than 700 mph before landing in Nevada on Sunday.

Felix Baumgartner, known as "Fearless Felix," is being called an aerospace pioneer after tens of millions watched worldwide as he broke records for the longest free fall ever recorded.

The daughter of an Orange Park man who very well may have paved the path for Baumgartner's historic jump spoke Monday.

The late Sgt. Robert Armstrong Jr. broke records that were unheard of in his day.

He lived in this Orange Park home until he died in the 1980s. His family says he was very proud of the accomplishment he and his fellow Marines made when they jumped from eight miles high. It's only a third of the distance of Baumgartner's jump, but it was a big deal back when it happened.

"I think it was one of his biggest accomplishments in life. My dad was a daredevil," Barbara Armstrong Smith said.

She still has the scrapbook her mother made, a testament to the feat of her father and his friends nearly 50 years ago.

"Back in 1964, him and a group of his fellow Marines descended into the dark and made a world-record jump from eight miles up in the night and broke a previous record held by the Russians," Smith said.

That was important for the American people in the midst of the Cold War. Newspapers from the time say Armstrong was one of nine Marine Corps parachutists who set the record for team jumping. They did it at night over Fort Bragg, N.C.

"Yes, he was very proud of it and so was my mom," Smith said.

After Baumgartner's jump on live TV, Smith says she's happy to see people breaking her father's record.

"I think it's awesome," she said. "I mean records were made to be broken, right? I mean, we see it every day. We just saw a bunch of records broken in the Olympics, and I do think it's phenomenal that ack in 1964 my father and his team were able to accomplish that."

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