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Today in History: First Untethered Hot-Air Balloon Flies Over Paris (1783)

On this day, two hundred twenty-eight years ago, Paris witnessed the first ever untethered hot-air balloon flight. Read about the first men to fly freely using a hot-air balloon and the brilliant minds behind it after the jump!

Flight has been considered as one of man’s greatest ambitions since time immemorial. To be one with birds, to reach the seemingly endless sky, and marvel at the view of the land below—-man has long sought for ways to make this happen. Daedalus, the character from Greek Mythology who made wings for his son, and Leonardo da Vinci’s idea for a 15th century helicopter, and more are all testaments to man’s desire to fly.

Although there were early attempts and devices that managed to fly, many of these were actually not feasible means of flight. Until in the early 1780’s, brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier discovered that placing and burning combustible materials under a lightweight fabric or paper bag causes the bag to rise up into the air. Although they first thought that it was the smoke that causes the phenomenon, it is actually hot air that makes the bag rise. With this discovery, the hot-air balloon was born.

An illustration of the first public hot-air balloon demonstration by the Montgolfier Brothers in 1873. Photo via Wikipedia

The Montgolfier Brothers carried on and fine-tuned their discovery. On June 4, 1783, the brothers finally showcased their invention in an initial public demonstration in Annonay, France. They unveiled and inflated an unmanned balloon, which rose to 3,000 feet and landed two miles away. Months later, they sent animals afloat in one of the balloons, in preparation for a more ambitious plan: to hoist man up into the air for the first time.

Finally, after several test flights using tethered balloons, the brothers successfully pulled off the first untethered manned hot-air balloon flight on November 21, 1783, witnessed by a large crowd of excited spectators in Paris. The first men to fly freely in a hot-air balloon were Marquis Francois d’Arlandes and Pilatre de Rozier, whose requests to pilot the balloon were granted by King Louis XVI.

A model of the hot-air balloon by the Montgolfier Brothers displayed at the London Science Museum. Photo via Wikipedia

In celebration of the hot air balloon’s centuries of flight, let us take a look at some of the most breath-taking hot-air balloon photos from the community!

Sources and additional readings:
Men fly over Paris — This Day in History, History.com
Hot air balloon — Wikipedia

written by plasticpopsicle

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