"Michel owes no family-he's just by himself," says Jean-Franois Clervoy, a French astronaut who has flown on the space shuttles Atlantis and Discovery and was himself a candidate to make the S38 jump before it got shelved. The lack of distractions, Clervoy says, explains how his friend could focus so single-mindedly on this project-hiring technicians, overseeing every aspect of the hardware development, meeting with investors to raise money. And submitting to punishing tests.
To get his hands accustomed to working in the cold, so he can open his parachute and handle its command strings even if his gloves fail to insulate adequately, Fournier practiced plunging them into a garbage can full of ice water until he could leave them there for 30 minutes. He spent long hours in pressure chambers at the equivalent of 65,000 feet above sea level. In Grenoble, France, he sat in a thermal chamber chilled to minus 55