i looked into this and the first thing i noticed is that they couldnt be talking about 30 times the altitude of airliners (32000ft.) 32000x30=960,000.
Thats 181 miles. The Thermosphere is about 50 miles and is the upper levels of the atmosphere..
heres what i dug up..
"On 16 August 1960, US Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger entered the record books when he stepped from the gondola of a helium balloon floating at
an altitude of 31,330 m (102,800 feet) and took the longest skydive in history. As of the writing of this supplement 39 years later, his record
The air is so thin at this altitude that it would make for a moderate laboratory vacuum on the surface of the earth. With little atmosphere, the sky
is essentially black and the sun's radiation is unusually intense despite polar temperatures.
Sitting in my gondola, which gently twisted with the balloon's slow turnings, I had begun to sweat lightly, though the temperature read 36 degrees
below zero Fahrenheit. Sunlight burned in on me under the edge of an aluminized antiglare curtain and through the gondola's open door.
The density of air at 30 km is roughly 1.5 % that at sea level and thus drag is essentially negligible.
No wind whistles or billows my clothing. I have absolutely no sensation of the increasing speed with which I fall. [The clouds] rushed up so
chillingly that I had to remind myself they were vapor and not solid.
This is not true for skydivers at ordinary altitudes, which is why they reach terminal velocity and cease to accelerate.
According to Captain Kittinger's 1960 report in National Geographic, he was in free fall from 102,800 to 96,000 feet and then experienced no
noticeable change in acceleration for an additional 6,000 feet despite having deployed his stabilization chute. This gave him an unprecedented 3900 m
(12,800 feet) over which to accelerate. At such extreme altitudes the acceleration due to gravity is not the standard 9.81 m/s2, but the slightly
lower value of 9.72 m/s2. Using these numbers, it is possible to calculate the maximum theoretical velocity experienced during this record-setting
jump. The result is amazingly close to the value recorded in National Geographic.
As one would expect the actual value is slightly less than the theoretical value. This agrees with the notion of a small, but still non-zero, amount
At nine-tenths the speed of sound, Captain Kittinger also holds the record for the greatest speed attained by a human without the use of an engine.
The standard value of the speed of sound in air at 31,000 m is 300 m/s (670 mph).
Given this, why then do so many sources report that Kittinger exceeded the speed of sound? One possible answer comes from the relatively obvious
similarity between Kittinger's self-reported value of 614 mph and the most frequently misreported value of 714 mph (319 m/s). Somebody must have
heard 614 but entered 714 accidentally into some officious document (like an encyclopedia). Some other people read the error and then reported it as
fact. Many more people read these "facts"and suddenly nearly everyone was remembering the day Captain Kittinger broke the sound barrier. Another
factoid is born."