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Clifton McClure; Rode Balloon to Edge of Space

January 22, 2000

Clifton M. "Demi" McClure, 67, one of the first Americans to ride a hot-air balloon to the edge of space. A career in the Air Force led McClure into the Man High Project, a pre-NASA program in New Mexico used to gather information about cabin conditions at high altitudes similar to space. On Oct. 8, 1958, McClure was strapped into a gondola attached to a 3-million-cubic-foot balloon and floated up to 99,700 feet. Reports published afterward said his body temperature went as high as 106.6 degrees as the balloon passed through a warm layer of the atmosphere that heated the gondola to 118 degrees. He was the third person to see the curvature of the Earth from space. McClure was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in September 1960. After retiring from active duty, he became a pilot for the South Carolina Air National Guard and served in Germany during the Berlin crisis in 1962. On Jan. 14 in Huntsville, Ala., of a stroke.

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