Fournier, a 64 year-old retired French army officer, has spent most of his savings on repeated efforts to perform the feat. If it had been successful, Fournier would have set four records: fastest free fall, longest free fall, highest altitude for a human balloon flight and highest parachute jump.
The mishap occurred on Tuesday morning, while Fournier was preparing himself in a special capsule for the climb to 130,000 feet. The 650 foot-tall balloon inflated and then suddenly floated away, leaving the gondola with Fournier inside it on the ground.
'Doc Smith wrote very high altitude skydiving (and the equipment you would need) in Triplanetary; see the entry on ablative heat reentry shield for details.
In the modern era, sfnal characters like Captain Kirk and B'Elanna Torres have tried orbital skydiving as a recreational pastime. Kirk did this in the original opening to the film Star Trek Generations; here's the clip.
(James T. Kirk skydives from orbit)
See NYTimes for more on the Fournier story; read more about orbital skydiving. Thanks to Moira for the tip on this story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/27/2008)