The World Changed Forever
Since the first balloon flights in 1783, ushering humans into the age of aviation, hot air and gas balloons have been used for exploration, sport, and adventure. The permanent exhibition at the Balloon Museum helps visitors to understand the rich history of ballooning, now well into its third century. In our permanent exhibition, delve into:
Humanity’s dream to fly was realized in 18th century France when the Montgolfier Brothers successfully flew the world’s first hot air balloons. Gas ballooning followed, and led to many achievements, such as crossing the English Channel by air and, later, the first use of aerial photography. Technology advanced, and so did the popularity of balloons. Showmen – and women -- entertained the masses and brought countries around the world into the age of human aviation.
BALLOONS IN WAR
The military’s use of balloons and lighter-than-air craft was inevitable. During the Civil War, America’s first military aviation unit was formed by the Union Army, the Balloon Corps. In Europe, balloons were used during the siege of Paris by the Prussians. Later, German zeppelins bombed England during World War I, and in World War II, Japan bombed the United States using the jet stream to send 10,000 transcontinental balloon bombs known as Fugos across the Pacific Ocean.
SPACE, SCIENCE, AND AIRSHIPS
In the early 20th century, more and more airships filled the sky. These immense flying machines were used by several countries, including the United States, for military and commercial purposes until their appeal declined. Balloons, however, continued to take humans and our scientific instruments higher than ever before, and paved the way for space travel.
RECREATION AND AIR SPORTS
Ballooning has long been recognized as a unique, challenging air sport. Hot air and gas balloon rallies and competitions have served to sharpen the skills of pilots and crews, and made the sport a source of entertainment and recreation for thousands of people around the world.
HOW BALLOONS FLY
There are different ways to make balloons fly. Hot air balloons are great for short distance flights because they rely on a limited supply of propane to fuel burners that heat the air inside an envelope. Gas balloons can travel long distances and to high altitudes. Their lift comes from hydrogen or helium-filled envelopes.
For decades, crossing the Atlantic Ocean challenged many balloonists. These perilous journeys took different forms and claimed many lives. Ultimately, Albuquerque balloonists achieved the seemingly impossible in Double Eagle II.
Crossing the Pacific Ocean by balloon would mean achieving one of the longest balloon flights in history. The first to achieve this was Double Eagle V. Later, new distance and duration world records were set by Two Eagles, a trans-Pacific balloon flight that took place in 2015.
AROUND THE WORLD FLIGHTS
The first serious attempts to fly nonstop around the world by balloon were attempted in the Jules Verne, a gondola on display here. However, it took until 1999 for Breitling Orbiter 3 to achieve what no others had accomplished before.