First hot

The first balloon flight with passengers (a sheep, a duchồng and a rooster) took off on Sept. 19, 1783. (Image credit: 2001 National Air and Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

In 1783, two brothers demonstrated their invention, the hot air balloon, before a crowd of dignitaries in Annonay, France. 

Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, prosperous paper manufacturers (a high-tech industry at the time), experimented with lighter-than-air devices after observing that heated air directed into a paper or fabric bag made the bag rise. After several successful tests, the brothers decided khổng lồ publicly demonstrate their invention.

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The Montgolfiers built a balloon made of silk and lined with paper that was 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter and launched it — with notoàn thân aboard — from the marketplace in Annonay on June 4, 1783, according lớn Encyclopedia Britannica. The balloon rose to lớn between 5,200 & 6,600 feet (1,600 khổng lồ 2,000 m) and stayed aloft for 10 minutes, traveling more than a mile (about 2 kilometers).

Word of the brothers" success quickly spread, and a demonstration for the king of France was planned. For this flight, the brothers enlisted the help of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, a successful wallpaper manufacturer, according lớn the Palace of Versailles museum. The inventors constructed a balloon about 30 feet (9 m) in diameter made of taffeta và coated with a varnish of alum for fireproofing. Réveillion"s influence was apparent, as the balloon was decorated with golden flourishes, zodiac signs & suns, together symbolizing the French monarch of the time, King Louis XVI.

First passengers

There was some concern about the effects of high altitude on humans. The king proposed a thử nghiệm using prisoners, but the Montgolfiers instead suspended a basket below the balloon containing a sheep, a duck & a rooster, according to lớn Time magazine. The idea was scientifically sound: The sheep"s physiology was thought to lớn be similar to lớn a human"s; the high-flying duchồng was unlikely lớn be harmed, so it was used as a control. And the rooster was included as a further control because, while it was also a bird, it did not fly at high altitudes.

The balloon and its animal passengers lifted off on Sept. 19, 1783. The flight lasted 8 minutes & was witnessed by the French king, Marie Antoinette và a crowd of 130,000. The device flew about 2 miles (3.2 km) before landing safely.


The first free ascent of a hot-air balloon with human passengers, on Nov. 21, 1783. — Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier & the Marquis d´Arlandes (Image credit: 2001 National Air & Museum, Smithsonian Institution (SI Neg. No. 93-2342))

First crewed flight

The Montgolfiers" next step was lớn test a balloon with a person as the passenger. On Oct. 15, 1783, the brothers launched a balloon on a tether with Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, a chemistry and physics teacher, aboard. He stayed aloft for almost 4 minutes, according lớn Encyclopedia Britannica.

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About a month later, on Nov. 21, Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d"Arlandes, a French military officer, made the first free ascent in a hot air balloon. The pair flew from the center of Paris lớn the suburbs, about 5.5 miles (9 km), in 25 minutes. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his journal about witnessing the balloon take off:

"We observed it lift off in the most majestic manner. When it reached around 250 feet <76 m> in altitude, the intrepid voyagers lowered their hats lớn salute the spectators. We could not help feeling a certain mixture of awe và admiration."

The first human passenger was also the first victlặng of balloon travel. Nearly two years after this flight, Pilâtre de Rozier died on June 15, 1785, when his balloon, filled with a combination of hydrogene and hot air, exploded during an attempt to lớn fly across the English Channel, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Advances in ballooning

On Jan. 19, 1784, in Lyons, France, a huge balloon built by the Montgolfiers carried seven passengers as high as 3,000 feet (914 m), according to lớn the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission.

At the time, the Montgolfiers believed they had discovered a new gas (which they called Montgolfier gas) that was lighter than air & caused the inflated balloons to rise, according lớn the Canadian Broadcast Corp. In reality, the gas was merely air, which became more buoyant as it was heated. The balloon rose because the air within was lighter và less dense than the surrounding atmosphere, which pushed against the bottom of the balloon.

The limitations of using air for flight were soon apparent; as the air cooled, the balloon was forced to desckết thúc. Keeping a fire burning onboard created the risk that sparks would set the bag on fire. Other means of keeping a balloon aloft were considered. On Dec. 1, 1783, less than two weeks after the first không tính tiền flight, Jacques Alexandre César Charles launched a balloon containing hydrogen, according khổng lồ Encyclopedia Britannica.

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Today, balloons are routinely used in scientific investigations of the upper atmosphere. On occasion, specially designed high-altitude balloons have also carried people inkhổng lồ the stratosphere; some individuals have sầu performed parachute jumps in the extremely thin air. Balloons have been considered for missions khổng lồ Saturn, Venus & Mars, but so far, Earth is the only planet to have hosted these kinds of expeditions.

Additional resources: 

This article was updated on April 9, 2019 by contributor Elizabeth Howell. 

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