Today is Hot Air Balloon Day. I have no idea why but it is so why fight it? Hot Air balloons have been around us for a while, the first recorded flight was on November 11th, 1783… but there may have been flights before then.
During the American Civil War they were used for reconnaissance, mainly on the Union side but the Confederacy had them as well. During World War 1 they were still used for observation but it was discovered that they equally made a steady platform for dropping bombs on the enemy below. Most were known as dirigibles.
The biggest problem with these early balloons is that they were normally filled with hydrogen, a very flammable chemical that would explode around heat. Since the gas had to be heated to lift off, this caused a little bit of a problem. The most famous tragedy concerning a Hydrogen balloon was the Hindenburg, a pleasure flight.
Eventually helium replaced hydrogen and being a much more stable gas, the problem was overcome. Today, balloons are used mainly for entertainment purposes and romantic interludes.
How to celebrate – Go on a hot air balloon ride. Learn how to fly a hot air balloon. Watch the movie, “Around The World In 80 Days”.
The principal behind the hot air balloon is simple enough, air is heated by propane tanks in the basket, causing the air to expand in the envelope (the balloon) making it ascend. To make it descend a parachute valve on the top of the balloon, which is attached to a cord in the basket, is opened allowing the air to escape.
To pilot the balloon is a little more complicated. Air travels in different directions in the atmosphere, you will need to know what level these air drafts are located at to get the balloon to travel in a particular direction. The first hot air balloon was launched by Pilatre De Rozier in 1783 (the “Aerostat Reveillon”). It stayed aloft for 15 minutes with a sheep, duck, and rooster as passengers.
The 1st manned flight came 2 months later when brothers Joseph and Etieine Montgolfier flew for 20 minutes.
Later, Rozier, used a combination of hot air and hydrogen as he tried to cross the English Channel in a balloon. The balloon blew up killing, Rozier, and ending the experiment.
Frenchman, Jean Pierre Blanchard, and American, John Jeffries, were the first to fly successfully across the English Channel in 1785. In 1932, Auguste Piccard, reached the stratosphere flying in a hot air balloon. Who knows what heights it will reach in the future…
How to celebrate: Find a place to take a Hot Air Balloon ride. Find a toy hot air balloon and experiment in your own backyard. Go to a hot air balloon festival.
Thank you to Max the Cat and his unfuzzy folks for sharing!