First Flight

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Montgolfiere Balloon

Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, paper mill owners, were trying to float bags made of paper and fabric. When the brothers held a flame near the opening at the bottom, the bag expanded with hot air and floated upward. The Montgolfier brothers built a larger paper lined silk balloon and demonstrated it on June 4, 1783, in the marketplace at Annonay. Their balloon (called a Montgolfiere) lifted 6,562 feet into the air. Image Courtesy: southpoledoc.files.wordpress.com

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Montgolfiere Balloon
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First Passengers

On September 19, 1783, in Versailles, a Montgolfiere hot air balloon carrying a sheep, a rooster, and a duck flew for eight minutes in front of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the French court. Image Courtesy: walnussastoria3archiv.files.wordpress.com

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First Passengers
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First Manned Flight

On October 15, 1783, Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes were the first human passengers on a Montgolfiere balloon. The balloon was in free flight, meaning it was not guided or could not be steered. On January 19, 1784, a huge Montgolfiere hot air balloon carried seven passengers to a height of 3,000 feet over the city of Lyons. Image Courtesy: www.chemheritage.org

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First Manned Flight
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Montgolfier Gas

At the time, the Montgolfiers believed they had discovered a new gas (they called Montgolfier gas) that was lighter than air and caused the inflated balloons to rise. In fact, the gas was merely air, which became more buoyant as it was heated. Image Courtesy: www.greystonesguide.ie

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Montgolfier Gas
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Limitations of hot air

The limitation of using hot air in balloons was that when the air in the balloon cooled, the balloon was forced to descend. If a fire was kept burning to warm the air constantly, sparks were likely to reach the bag and set it afire. Image Courtesy: 3.bp.blogspot.com

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Limitations of hot air
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Hydrogen Baloon

Less than two weeks after the ground breaking Montgolfier flight, the French physicist Jacques Charles and Nicolas Robert made the first untethered ascension with a gas hydrogen balloon on December 1, 1783. Jacques Charles combined his expertise in making hydrogen with Nicolas Robert's new method of coating silk with rubber. Image Courtesy: upload.wikimedia.org

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Hydrogen Baloon
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Charliere Hydrogen Balloon

The Charliere hydrogen balloon exceeded the earlier Montgolfier hot air balloon in time in the air and distance traveled. With its wicker gondola, netting, and valve and ballast system, it became the definitive form of the hydrogen balloon for the next 200 years. The audience in the Tuileries Gardens was reported as 400,000, half the population of Paris. Image Courtesy: www.sciencephoto.com

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Charliere Hydrogen Balloon
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First Ballooning Fatality

On June 15, 1785, Pierre Romain and Pilatre de Rozier were the first persons to die in a balloon. Pilatre de Rozier was both the first to fly and to die in a balloon. Using a dangerous combination of hot air and hydrogen proved fatal to the pair. Image Courtesy: www.tititudorancea.org

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First Ballooning Fatality
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First Balloon Flight across the English Channel

Jean Blanchard designed a hydrogen balloon with flapping devices to control its flight. Jean Blanchard moved to England, where he gathered a small group of enthusiasts, including Boston physician, John Jeffries. John Jeffries offered to pay for what became the first flight across the English Channel in 1785. Image Courtesy: www.cabinetmagazine.org

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First Balloon Flight across the English Channel
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Balloon Flight in the United States

The first real balloon flight in the United States did not occur until the Jean Blanchard ascended from the yard of the Washington Prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 9, 1793. That day, President George Washington, the French ambassador, and a crowd of onlookers watched Jean Blanchard ascend to about 5,800 feet. Image Courtesy: www.fiddlersgreen.net

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Balloon Flight in the United States
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First Airmail

Blanchard carried the first piece of airmail with him, a passport presented by President Washington that directed all citizens of the United States, and others, that they oppose no hindrance to Mr. Blanchard and help in his efforts to establish and advance an art which will be useful to mankind. Image Courtesy: blogs.airspacemag.com

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First Airmail
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Shapes & Sizes

Early balloons were not truly navigable. Attempts to improve maneuverability included elongating the balloon's shape and using a powered screw to push it through the air. Trial and error over time and finally flight was perfected. Image Courtesy: aboutfacts.net

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Shapes & Sizes
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