Hot Air Balloons - History of Hot Air Balloons

Hot Air Balloons

The first hot air balloons were flown by Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. On June 4, 1783, Joseph and Étienne had a public demonstration of their invention in Annonay, France. They made a round balloon with an outer layer of burlap, and three inner layers of thin paper. The balloon was held together with 1800 buttons, and an outer net made of rope. They lit a fire underneath it, and filled the balloon with hot air. It flew for ten minutes. In that time, it rose as high as 5200-6600 feet (1600-2000 meters), and drifted 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) away.

Hot air balloons are known as lighter-than-air craft. They depend on the fact that hot air is less dense than cool air. This makes the air inside the balloon lighter than the air outside. Modern hot air balloons are made of nylon, and have a propane burner to heat the air in the balloon. Similar lighter-than-air craft, like blimps and Zeppelins, use hydrogen or helium in their balloons.

  • Joseph was the twelfth child, and Étienne was the fifteenth out of sixteen Montgolfier children. Their father, Pierre, ran a paper-making business in Annonay, France.

  • The first hot air balloon to carry a person was launched on October 15, 1783. The Montgolfier brothers built a much larger balloon than their first one, and tethered it to the ground. Étienne Montgolfier rose nearly 80 feet off the ground.

  • The first free flight in a balloon was on November 21, 1783. The pilots were Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes. They rose nearly 3000 feet (900 meters) above Paris, and flew freely for 25 minutes, before embers from the fire started to scorch the balloon fabric. They put out the fire, and landed before they were in danger.

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