The history of hot air balloons

Hot air balloons, with their imposing presence in the sky, have captivated the human imagination since their invention. This invention is the key in the history of aviation and an example of the human desire to conquer the skies. The history of hot air balloons begins in the 18th century.

The beginnings: the Montgolfier brothers

Recently, it has been discovered that in 1709 the Brazilian priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão gave the first demonstration of aerial ascension with hot air balloons.

However, a major development is not seen until 1783 with the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne, two French paper manufacturers. Fascinated by the behavior of gases, they discovered that hot air, being less dense than cold air, could make an object rise.

On June 4, 1783, they flew the first unmanned hot air balloon in Annonay, France. This balloon, made of paper and cloth, rose to an altitude of almost 2,000 meters, surprising the local people.

The first manned flight

After several successful unmanned flights, on October 19, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers flew a balloon with animals on board: a rooster, a sheep and a duck. This flight was a success and was the precursor to the first manned flight by humans.

On November 21, 1783, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes became the first humans to fly in a hot air balloon. His flight lasted about 25 minutes and covered about 9 kilometers over Paris, proving that human flight was possible.

Advances and military applications

During the 19th century, hot air balloons continued to evolve and found applications in various fields, including warfare. During the Napoleonic Wars, they were used for observation and communication. Later, during the American Civil War, balloons were used for military surveillance.

In 1884, Frenchmen Charles Renard and Arthur Constantin Krebs made a breakthrough with their directional balloon “La France”, equipped with an electric motor. This balloon could be controlled and directed, marking the beginning of the transition to airships.

The 20th century and the modern era

The 20th century saw the rise and fall of airships, but hot air balloons remained popular for leisure and sport. In 1932, the Swiss explorer Auguste Piccard made history with a stratospheric flight that reached an altitude of 16,201 meters, using a hydrogen balloon.

Today, hot air balloons are mainly used for recreational and sport flights. Festivals like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, United States, attract thousands of visitors and balloon pilots from around the world, becoming iconic events for fans.

From the initial experiments of the Montgolfier brothers to the stratospheric flights of Piccard, the history of hot air balloons is an adventure. These aircraft have contributed significantly to the understanding of aviation and inspired generations of adventurers and scientists. Today, hot air balloons remain a symbol of the human dream of flight, offering a unique and peaceful way to see the world from a different perspective.

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