On my way to San Francisco, I saw some hot air balloons outside of Davis, which is a city located just outside of Sacramento. They were conventional round hot air balloons, and they drifted slowly across the sky. While I do not want to ride in a hot air balloon, I enjoyed seeing them.
Hot air balloons have an interesting history. Their origins can be traced back to China. According to Wikipedia, China used unmanned hot air balloons for military signalling during the Three Kingdoms era (220–280 AD).
The birth of modern-day hot air balloons began in Europe. According to Wikipedia, “the first documented balloon flight in Europe was demonstrated by Bartolomeu de Gusmão. On August 8, 1709, in Lisbon, he managed to lift a balloon full of hot air about 4.5 meters in front of King John V and the Portuguese court.”
After Gusmão’s demonstration, additional attempts to launch hot air balloons occurred in France. The first unmanned flight of a hot air balloon in France occurred on September 19, 1783. While there are some slight variations in the details of this flight in the sources I consulted, there seems to be a consensus that the balloon transported a sheep, a duck, and a rooster in the air anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes before crashing to the ground. This demonstration was seen by Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the rest of the French court.
The first manned hot air balloon flight occurred two months later on November 21, 1783 in Paris, France. According to the National Balloon Museum website, this flight “was in a hot air balloon made of paper and silk made by the Montgolfier brothers,” and the “balloon carried two men, Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis of d’ Arlanders.” During this flight lasting about 25 minutes, “the balloon reached an altitude of at least 500 feet and traveled about 5½ miles.”
Even though the materials and designs may have changed over the years, hot air balloons remain popular today. People celebrate this captivating invention at hot air balloon festivals all over the world. Here are some fun photos of unusual hot air balloons at these festivals.
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