On this day in history: the first manned voyage of a hydrogen balloon left Paris

In 1783, the first manned voyage of a hydrogen balloon left
Paris carrying Professor Jacques Alexander Cesar Charles and Marie-Noel Robert
to about 600 m and landed 43 km away after 2 hours in the air.

Robert then left the balloon, and Charles continued the
flight briefly to 2700 m altitude, measured by a barometer. This
hydrogen-filled balloon was generally spherical and used a net, load ring,
valve, open appendix and sand ballast, all of which were to be universally
adopted later. His hydrogen generator mixed huge quantities of sulfuric acid
with iron filings.

On 27 Aug 1783, Charles had launched an unmanned hydrogen
balloon, just before the Montgolfiers’ flight.

Hot air balloon, By Kropsoq (photo taken by Kropsoq) [GFDL (http://ift.tt/KbUOlc), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://ift.tt/gc84jZ), CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://ift.tt/KbUPWg) or CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (http://ift.tt/1gLIODx)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There are three main types of balloon:

The hot air balloon or Montgolfière obtains its buoyancy by
heating the air inside the balloon; it has become the most common type.

The gas balloon or Charlière is inflated with a gas of lower
molecular weight than the ambient atmosphere; most gas balloons operate with
the internal pressure of the gas the same as the pressure of the surrounding
atmosphere; a superpressure balloon can operate with the lifting gas at
pressure that exceeds that of the surrounding air, with the objective of
limiting or eliminating the loss of gas from day-time heating; gas balloons are
filled with gases such as:

  • Hydrogen – originally used extensively but, since the
    Hindenburg disaster, is now seldom used due to its high flammability;
  • Coal gas – although giving around half the lift of
    hydrogen, extensively used during the nineteenth and early twentieth
    century, since it was cheaper than hydrogen and readily available;
  • Helium – used today for all airships and most manned gas

Other gases have included ammonia and methane, but these
have poor lifting capacity and other safety defects and have never been widely

The Rozière type has both heated and unheated lifting gases
in separate gasbags. This type of balloon is sometimes used for long-distance
record flights, such as the recent circumnavigations, but is not otherwise in

Both the hot air, or Montgolfière, balloon and the gas
balloon are still in common use. Montgolfière balloons are relatively
inexpensive, as they do not require high-grade materials for their envelopes,
and they are popular for balloonist sport activity.

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Posted on December 2, 2015, in Useful Information. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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