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Taking the ultimate dare -- and living to tell the tale (photos)

Filmmaker James Cameron is only the latest person to put technology to its ultimate test, facing conditions where risk to life and limb is hardly hyperbole.

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Charles Cooper
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1 of 9 U.S. Air Force

Yeager flies faster than the speed of sound

Capt. Charles E. Yeager (shown standing in front of the Air Force's Bell-built X-1 supersonic research aircraft) became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in level flight on October 14, 1947.
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2 of 9 NASA

Yuri Gagarin: First human in outer space

Following on the heels of the Sputnik a few years earlier, the Soviets claimed a propaganda victory in its Cold War duel with the United States when when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to reach outer space. His spacecraft successfully orbited the Earth on April 12, 1961.
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3 of 9 Jeremy Davey/ThrustSSC

Breaking the speed barrier by car

In October 1997, former Royal Air Force fighter pilot Wing Commander Andy Green became the first person driving a car that broke the sound barrier. The feat, which occurred in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, broke the barrier with an average speed of 763 mph. Next on the agenda: a car capable of traveling at 1,000 mph.
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4 of 9 NASA

Humans reach the moon

On July 20, 1969, science fiction became reality when Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first humans to reach the moon. In this image, Aldrin was photographed by Armstrong after deploying the Early Apollo Scientific Package. Armstrong, out of the picture, took the photograph.
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5 of 9 Submarine Ring of Fire 2006 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program

Mariana Trench

The Nikko caldera in the Mariana Trench, located south of Japan and east of the Philippines, is the deepest part of the world's oceans. Marine scientists estimate its depth at around 36,201 feet.
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6 of 9 Page from Jacques' son Bertrand Piccard's <a href="http://www.bertrandpiccard.com/eng/family3.php#">Page from Jacques' son Bertrand Piccard's website</a>

1960: The first visit to the Mariana Trench

On January 23, 1960, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Auguste Piccard made history when their bathyscaphe, called Trieste, descended four and a half hours to reach the deepest point in the Mariana Trench -- some 35,797 feet below the surface. Until James Cameron's successful descent over the weekend, it was the only manned vessel to achieve that feat.
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7 of 9 Photo by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic

James Cameron goes it alone to the bottom of the ocean

On March 25, 2012, filmmaker James Cameron became the first person to make a solo dive to the ocean's deepest point -- a portion of the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench known as "Challenge Deep -- on his specially designed solo submersible.
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8 of 9 Loic Jean-Albert website

The flying squirrel man

No, you couldn't pay me enough to do this. Not a million bucks. Not ten. But Loïc Jean-Alberthas made quite a name for himself these last few years, jumping out of airplanes wearing a wingsuit that makes him look like a flying squirrel. Believe it or not, he's not alone. Other like-minded thrill seekers now do the same. To get a sense of what they face, here's a 2007 clip of Jean-Albert jumping from about 1,000 feet above a snow-covered summit.
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9 of 9 Yves Rossey

Jet Man

On September 26, 2008, a former Swiss fighter pilot named Yves Rossey flew across the English Channel with a jet pack on his back (and carbon-fiber wing outfit) he had designed. The crossing took just over 9 minutes to make. On May 7, 2011, Rossey similarly jetted across the Grand Canyon.

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