The Chinese balloon shoot down last week got me to thinkin’…
As the news continues to come in about the recent airborne discovery, I must say I was quite surprised to hear about the “spy” balloon left drifting across the US. Seems like we hear more and more as the investigation goes forward. Now, I’m sure our armed forces were on top of things, but it did pique my curiosity and cause me to think about such an old technology in today’s high tech satellite systems. Who’s behind this? What are they trying to learn? What about other balloons being allowed to randomly float around the globe? And more. It also got me to think about old fashioned ballooning, so I went online and dug out some cool facts. I enjoyed learning more about balloons since I will never, ever, ever go up in one! Special thanks to www.nationalballoonmuseum.com and Wikipedia for the info, and YouTube for the video. Enjoy!
A great balloon song: LISTEN
Learn to make your own HERE
- On November 21, 1783 the first free flight carrying a human occurred in Paris, France in a hot air balloon made of paper and silk made by the Montgolfier brothers. The balloon carried two men, Francois Pilatrê de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis of Arlanders. the balloon’s skirt. The balloon reached an altitude of at least 500 feet and traveled about 5½ miles before landing safely 25 minutes later. Legend says when they landed in the farming and vineyard area near Paris the pilots gave bottles of champagne to the startled farmers and peasants to calm their fears of demons appearing from the heavens, but that cannot be confirmed.
- On December 1, 1783, just ten days after the first hot air balloon ride, the first gas balloon was launched by physicist Jacques Alexander Charles and Nicholas Louis Robert. This flight too started in Paris, France and lasted 2½ hours covering a distance of 25 miles. The gas used in the balloon was hydrogen, a lighter than air gas that had been developed by an Englishman, Henry Cavendish in 1776, by using a combination of sulphuric acid and iron filings.
- Balloons were one of the first mechanisms used in air warfare. Their role was originally mainly for reconnaissance purposes.
- Gas balloons soon became the preferred mode of air travel. . They continued to be the primary mode of air travel until the invention of the fixed wing aircraft by the Wright brothers in America in 1903.
- In the early days of ballooning, crossing the English Channel was considered the first step to long distance flying. In 1785 Pilatre de Rozier, one of the men from the first balloon flight, and a man named Romain attempted to cross the channel in a balloon using an experimental system of hydrogen and hot air compartments. Unfortunately, this volatile mixture of highly flammable hydrogen with fire caused the balloon to explode thirty minutes after liftoff and both men were killed. The first successful crossing of the English Channel was later accomplished the same year by French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries using a gas balloon.
- Airships, often called blimps, began to be built in the early 1900’s. They were inflated by hydrogen gas to keep them aloft. Airships are cigar shaped balloons, some of which have a rigid frame to maintain their shape. They had engines with propellers as well as flaps to control the direction and speed of flight.
- The Van Zeppelin was the first large airship built. It was 420 feet long and could travel 600 miles in 2 days. One of the first such ships in the U.S. was built in 1904. These large ships became the first commercial airliners. Many were made for military uses but others had luxurious cabins for seating passengers. By 1936 airships had become more common. The most famous airship was the Hindenburg built in Germany in 1936. It was 803 feet long and 135 feet wide and contained 7 million cubic feet of gas.
- On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg caught fire and burned in less than one minute while attempting to dock in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Of the 97 persons on board 35 were killed. Such ships had exemplary safety records until the spectacular demise of this famous ship. (hear famous live radio announcer Herb Morrison struggle to share what he was seeing via radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ad9tholMEM . After the crash, the use of such airships began to wane.
- In 1960 Paul E. (Ed) Yost and 3 others formed Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and developed the modern hot air balloon and the propane gas burner which made sustained flight possible. On October 22, 1960 Yost piloted the maiden flight of the new balloon on a flight lasting 25 minutes and traveling 3 miles. The balloon was 40 feet in diameter with a volume of 30,000 cubic feet. This made modern sport hot air ballooning possible.
- By 1963 Sport ballooning had grown enough so that the first U. S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship event was held in Kalamazoo, In 1964 the Nationals were held in Nevada where it remained for 3 years. In 1970 the preliminaries for the Nationals were held in Indianola, Iowa with the final event at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. The National championships remained in Indianola for 18 years.
- Beginning in 1989 the Nationals moved around to various parts of the country. That same year the National Balloon Classic was born to take its place in Indianola.
- Balloons using a combination of helium and hot air are now used for many long-distance flights such as the around the world flight of Steve Fossett in his balloon, “Bud Light Spirit of Freedom” on June 19, 2002. This balloon was a hybrid hot air and gas balloon with two separate Helium gas cells and one hot air cell. Inflated, the balloon stood 180 feet tall with a diameter of 108 feet. Fossett launched from Northam, Western Australia in a seventh and successful attempt to be the first person to circumnavigate the globe solo in a balloon. Fourteen days, 19 hours and 51 minutes later he landed in the eastern Australian Outback.
- Gas balloons, such as NASA’s Ultra-Long Duration Balloon provide greatly enhanced scientific research. Such balloons are used like satellites to study deep space and the Earth, but at a fraction of the cost of a satellite. NASA balloons are made of a thin polyethylene material about the same thickness as an ordinary sandwich wrap. In size they range up to 40 million cubic feet in volume and 600 feet in diameter and taller than a 60-story building. When the experiment is complete, a radio command is sent from a ground station to separate the scientific payload from the balloon and a parachute opens and it floats back to the ground. The balloon envelope collapses and falls to the Earth.
Another cool video:
B-Line to Space: The Scientific Balloon Story (20 min)
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