• March 26 1870

    Charles Green dies

    On this day in 1870 died in London Charles Green, United Kingdom's most famous balloonist of the 19th century.

    He experimented with coal gas as an alternative to hydrogen for lifting power, making his first ascent using it on 19 July 1821. He became a professional balloonist and had made 200 ascents when in 1836 set a major long distance record in the balloon Royal Vauxhall: flying overnight from Vauxhall Gardens in London to Weilburg, in Germany traveling 480 miles. By the time he retired in 1852, he had flown in a balloon more than 500 times. Green also is credited with the invention of the trail rope as an aid to steering and landing a balloon.

    After living in retirement for many years he died suddenly of heart disease at his residence in London in 1870. He is buried in the eastern side of Highgate Cemetery. His monument is a small pedestal surmounted by the sculpted top half of a hot-air balloon (pictured at left).

  • March 20 1942

    Start of "Operation Outward" balloon offensive over Germany

    On this day in 1942, was the beginning of "Operation Outward" a military program carried out by England to attack Germany using free-flying balloons. The balloons were filled with hydrogen and carried either a trailing steel wire intended to damage high voltage power lines by producing a short circuit, or incendiary devices that were intended to start fires in fields and forests.

    The launch area was located at the Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club. More than 230 men and women from Royal Navy, Royal Marine, Women's Royal Naval Service, the RAF Balloon Command and the Naval Meteorological Services were assigned to the operation. During the 899 days that endured the offensive, a total of 99.142 balloons were released.

    Ones of Outward's greatest success occured on July 12, 1942, when a wire-carrying balloon struck a 110,000-volt power line near Leipzig: the failure in the circuit breaker at the Böhlen power station caused a fire that destroyed it.

  • March 29 1956

    Premiere of On the threshold of Space

    On this day in 1956, was premiered "On the Threshold of Space" a drama directed by Robert D. Webb, starring Guy Madison, Virginia Leith and John Hodiak. The movie provides a historical depiction of air force tests made in the United States for the imminent space race. So far, is the only movie ever made on which stratospheric balloons have a central place in the plot.

    The balloon branch at Holloman AFB assisted 20th Century Fox in the making of the movie. Aside the guest appearance of Holloman personnel as extras in the film, in June 1954 two balloon flights were performed with a dummy spherical gondola dubbed "Skylight". The first sequence of filming recorded the balloon layout, inflation, and the launch of the skylight gondola. Further filming recorded the separation and impact of the gondola and also an attempted filming of a simulated bail-out from the gondola. A second sequence of filming was conducted by balloon-borne remote control cameras. The first flight recorded the surface directly under the balloon at altitudes of 50,000 to 100,000 feet at 10,000 foot increments. A second flight repeated the previous balloon-borne camera sequence with the exception that the camera photographed the horizon.

    For that same reason, the movie was premiered in full length at Holloman AFB.

  • March 6 1962

    Stratoscope II Test Flight from Hope Arkansas

    On March 3, 1962 was performed the first successful test flight of the Stratoscope-II balloon vehicle. The balloon, of 12.150 pounds gross weight, lifted a load, including ballast, of 8,132 pounds to an altitude of 72,000 feet in its 600-mile flight from Hope, Arkansas to Abbeville, Georgia. For the test a 27-foot-tall tower structure was used simulating the real telescope in size and mass.

    The test demonstrated the practicability of the dual balloon system, the ballast system, and the balloon controls. Favorable wind conditions precluded an adequate test of the system in winds of moderate strength.The test demonstrated the practicability of the dual balloon system, the ballast system, and the balloon controls. Favorable wind conditions precluded an adequate test of the system in winds of moderate strength.

  • March 24 1962

    August Piccard dies

    On this day in 1962, Auguste Antoine Piccard, a Swiss physicist, inventor and explorer known for his record-breaking hydrogen balloon flights, died of a heart attack at his home in Lausanne, Switzerland; he was 78 years old. He was born on 28 January 1884. Twin brother of Jean-Felix, he studied the Earth's upper atmosphere. In 1930 he designed a spherical, pressurized aluminum gondola that would allow ascent to a great altitude without requiring a pressure suit. On 27 May 1931, Auguste Piccard and Paul Kipfer took off from Augsburg, Germany in a hydrogen balloon, and reached a record altitude of 15,781 m. On 18 August next year, launched from Dübendorf, Switzerland, Piccard and Max Cosyns made a 2nd record-breaking ascent to 16,201 m.

    During the remainder of his life Piccard's interests shifted from upper atmosphere to the ocean's depths. That interest would lead to the invention of the first bathyscaphe, with which he made a number of unmanned dives in 1948 and a more sophisticated one which took him to a record-breaking depth of 3,150 m in 1953.

  • March 1 1963

    First scientific flight of STRATOSCOPE II program

    On this day in 1963, was performed the first scientific flight of the Stratoscope II program. The tandem balloon system carrying the 36 inches telescope was launched from Palestine, Texas aimed to observe the atmosphere of Mars.

    After a succesful overnight flight of a little more than 11 hours the balloon finally landed near Pulaski, Tennessee. Project Manager Dr. Martin Schwarzchild, arriving at landing site, said he was "delighted" with condition of the instruments and termed the flight a success.

    Three days later, during a press conference at the Palestine balloon base, preliminary analysis of taped infrared-bolometer data was presented on which the telescope detected the presence of water vapour and carbon dioxide on the atmosphere of the red planet.

  • March 5 1964

    Scientific flight of CORONASCOPE II

    On this day in 1964 a 1,300-lb. instrumented payload was carried to 97.000 ft. by balloon as part of Coronascope II project, sponsored jointly by ONR, NSF, and NASA under supervision of Dr. Gordon Newkirk of the High Altitude Observatory at Boulder, Colorado.

    The balloon launched from National Center for Atmospheric Research facility in Palestine, Texas traveled about 105 miles eastward, then doubled back to travel another 100 miles before dropping its instrument payload on radio command signal, 50 miles from the launch site.

    Photographs made by the instrument aided in studying the effects of sun's corona upon earth's magnetic field and upper atmosphere.

  • March 13 1984

    ASHCAN balloon mission obtains samples from COSMOS 1402 reentry

    On this day in 1984 was performed an special balloon flight of the ASHCAN program.

    The objective of the mission was to retrieve samples of radioactive particles from COSMOS-1402 a nuclear-powered soviet radar reconnaissance satellite that reentered on February 7, 1984. A first balloon was launched from Holloman AFB on 28 February 1984 to provide samples between 27 and 36 km followed by another mission on March 13. A previous flight performed a month before provided an important background sample that permitted measurement of the concentration of uranium nuclides in the stratospheric aerosol prior to the burnup.

    Aerosol samples were collected on IPC-1478 cellulose filter paper in samplers designed and used in the Department of Energy's project ASHCAN.

  • March 19 1999

    Breitling Orbiter 3 achieves first Earth circumnavigation

    On this day in 1999, pilots Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones aboard the Breitling Orbiter 3, achieved the first non-stop circumnavigation of the earth in a balloon. The balloon was a Cameron R-650 Rozière balloon, which combined the features of a hot-air balloon and a gas balloon, with a helium cell within a hot-air envelope. Pilots lived in a gondola constructed of a weave of Kevlar and carbon fiber material.

    They launched from the Swiss Alpine village of Chateau-d'Oex on March 1st, 1999. They traveled southwest over the Mediterranean and then swung east over Mauritania on March 2 at a starting meridian of 9 degrees, 12 minutes west. They landed in the Egyptian desert after being aloft 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes on March 21, 1999, having traveled a distance of 40.814 kilometers. During the course of the flight, the balloon had climbed to altitudes of up to 11.737 meters, and achieved speeds up to 123 knots. The official "finish line" of the circumnavigation occurred over Mauritania on March 19.

  • March 9 2001

    2nd consecutive failure of the NASA ULDB balloon in Australia

    On this day in 2001, was launched from Alice Springs, Australia a 18 million cubic feet NASA super pressure balloon then denominated ULDB (Ultra Long Duration Balloon). Aim was to test the same kind of balloon that failed in February that year, so the balloon carried only the flight gondolas (telemetry, solar panels, communications and ballast control).

    Following a normal launch and after reach altitude, observing the balloon by telescope showed a shape discontinuity (which later would be known as the "S" cleft). Nevertheless the flight continued through the day with minor variations in pressure observed. However at sunrise of the second day aloft, the differential pressure barely moved above the nighttime pressure so was evident that the balloon developed a leak at some point during the flight and was terminated before clearing the Australian west coast.

  • March 4 2011

    Raven balloon broke altitude record

    On this day in 2011, a zero pressure balloon manufactured by Raven Aerostar and flown by Cornell University graduate students, broke the world Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning record for highest altitude and largest balloon envelope.

    The balloon volume envelope of 141,000 cubic feet reached a maximum altitude of 135,030 feet.

    The flight was part of a graduate program in Systems Engineering at Cornell University.

  • March 15 2012

    First jump of the Red Bull Stratos program

    On this day in 2012 Austrian parachutist Felix Baumgartner performed the first jump under Red Bull Stratos program. The jump was performed from a capsule under a stratospheric balloon at 71.5 kft with the goal to fully test the equipment under real conditions for the first time and fly over the "Armstrong Line", the altitude beyond which humans could not survive in an unpressurized environment.

    Felix's exit from the capsule went exactly as planned plunging back towards earth at a speed of nearly 365 miles per hour. The freefall endured 3 minutes 33 seconds, opening the parachute at 7.890 feet for a safe landing 40 miles from Roswell, NM.

    The test demonstrated the good performance of the capsule system as well the stratospheric balloon and served to detect several items in Felix personal equipment needed to be fixed or improved.

  • March 26 2015

    First flight of the NASA SPB balloon from New Zealand

    On this day in 2015, was launched from Wanaka, New Zealand, a 18 million cubic feet NASA Super Pressure Balloon on its first long duration mission from mid-latitudes.

    As the flight carried no scientific experiments, the payload below the balloon was a specially built square gondola fitted with instruments aimed to control and monitor the behaviour of the balloon in flight.

    The flight endured 32 days 5 hours and 51 minutes. Termination and landing of the mission occured over Australia in a remote area near the Queensland and New South Wales border after NASA controllers detected a leak developing in the balloon.