“I’ve always thought that regardless of age you should have no limitations and do the impossible,” Larry Connor tells PEOPLE
Larry Connor is a 73- year-old grandfather of six who long ago decided to try and cram as much adrenaline-fueled adventure into his life—and in the coming weeks he’s attempting to set the world record for the highest HALO (high-altitude, low-opening) formation skydive.
One of only three people to have rocketed into outer space and descended to some of the deepest regions of the ocean, the Ohio-based real estate and technology entrepreneur recently paid to have the nation’s largest hot air balloon built and use it to carry him—along with four of the military’s most elite combat pararescue team members—up to 35,000 feet above the New Mexico desert and attempt their record-breaking leap.
“I’ve always thought that regardless of age you should have no limitations and do the impossible,” Connor tells PEOPLE. "More times than not, I’ve found the impossible is just somebody’s opinion."
The intrepid real estate and technology entrepreneur is also using the record-setting jump to raise awareness and $1 million for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides college scholarships and educational support to the children of special forces soldiers killed in the line of duty.
Connor didn’t begin his life of white-knuckle adventure until his 30s. “I was a late bloomer,” he says. “I was more focused on starting my businesses.” He quickly made up for lost time and before long he was competing in Formula 1, off-road races through Mexico’s rugged Baja peninsula, and whitewater rafting down some of the world’s most dangerous rivers.
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In 2021, he descended 36,000 feet into the deepest spots in the Pacific Ocean with scientists and a year later he ventured into space on the Axiom Space Ax-1 Mission’s 17-day journey to and from the International Space Station.
If all goes according to plan, Connor’s next adventure—known as the Alpha 5 Project—will occur sometime between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. “The window is very weather dependent,” says the longtime skydiver, who has logged 75 training jumps over the past year to prepare for his record-setting plunge. “One of the biggest challenges up there are the winds—and it’s easy to get blown 20 or 30 miles off course.”
It will take the group—who will be breathing pure oxygen to flush nitrogen from their bodies—50 minutes to ascend to their 35,000-foot target altitude in their 15-story-high balloon.
“I’m gonna be pretty nervous and will certainly have some butterflies,” says Connor, who will be wearing a protective jumpsuit and multiple layers of heated clothing for protection against the minus-60-degree cold.
The trip back to earth will be much quicker. The group will free-fall at close to 200 mph for upwards of three minutes, then link arms for a few seconds before deploying their parachutes at 5,000 feet and floating down to the desert floor.
Once back on solid ground, Connor will be wasting no time resting on his laurels—and already has his sights set on further adventures that include a possible expedition to the Titanic “to show that it can be done safely and successfully,” along with another even longer mission to outer space.
“The way I see it, you need to run toward the challenge,” he says. “I’m trying to live a lifetime every five years.”
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