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The birthday of the space era

Staff writer ▼ | November 20, 2009
Exactly 226 years ago, on the November 21st, 1783, the world saw the beginning of the space era: François Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes entered the gondola below the balloon made of paper and silk.
Ballon flight
Ballon flightExactly 226 years ago, on the November 21st, 1783, the world saw the beginning of the space era: François Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes entered the gondola below the balloon made of paper and silk.


Below the balloon the fire was started, hot air entered the balloon and human kind slowly began the journey to the stars. Although the first flight in the balloon constructed by the Montgolfier brothers was short and low, it proved what the man was dreaming since Greek inventor Archimedes: that birds are not the only specie capable of flying.

That wasn't the first balloon flight in history - a duck, a sheep and a rooster visited the skies months ago - but flight on November 21st proved two important things: a man can survive the "high altitude" and equally important that the man can control balloon and land safely. It is interesting that the first manned balloon has many of the same features as modern gas-filled balloon: an open-neck for gas expansion, a gas-release valve at the top and a supply of ballast for altitude control.

Just ten years the first manned balloon flight, balloon were widely adopted, of course the army was the first to try. Balloons were being used as military observation posts and delivery systems of bombs and messages. During the First World War balloons became airships and changed the nature of warfare. During the Second World War balloons protected strategic targets from low-level aircrafts.

In the first four decades of the 20th century powered airships were used for passenger transportation but the fall of the Hindenburg in 1937 ended the glorious era that lasted 154 years. However, similar as airplanes, balloons always had a sport spirit tied to them.

Rallies, races and long balloon flights were always popular and the 1960s were the true beginning of a modern, sporty balloon era. The technology was advanced enough for the development of the modern hot-air balloon. A strong envelope made of nylon, inflated with the hot air from a propane burner led to the resurrection of interest in the balloon sport.

The enthusiastic years that followed saw such wonderful achievement such as the flight of 1981: the Eagle V, launched from Nagashimi, Japan on 10 November, has landed 84 hours and 31 minutes later in Mendocino National Forest in California. Although a magnificent event, it was completely out shadowed by late Steve Fossett: his crossed the Pacific Ocean in a balloon: the lift-off was in South Korea and he landed Canada. He was also the first to fly around the world alone in 2002.

Today balloons carries passengers just for fun but they live a very successful life in military and scientific circles. Weather balloon can fly as high as 40,000 metres and stay in the air three weeks. Not to mention the most knows balloon in the history: that that felt down in Roswell and brought the idea of Aliens to life.

That balloon in a symbolic way connected the men's desire to go to space and the adventure started by Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes. With a big contribution of a duck, a sheep and a rooster.

Contributed by: Joana Rodeiro


 

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