On this day in 1957: Balloon reaches new heights

USAF doctor, Maj. David Simons reached a record height of 100,000ft (over 19 miles) by balloon, to test human reactions under artificial conditions at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. The flight lasted 32 hours, according to Flight International in its issue dated 30 August 1957.

We reported at the time: “Maj. Simons was accommodated in an aluminium gondola 7ft high and 3ft wide beneath a helium-filled plastic envelope designed to expand to a diameter of 202ft and began his ascent from Crosby, Minn, at 9.30 a.m. (2.30 p.m. G.M.T.) on August 19…

“The flight constitutes a record (so far as the F.A.I. is concerned, at present unofficial) both for altitude–variously reported as 102,000ft and 118,000ft–and for duration.

In the pdf archive:

Issue dated 25 October 1957 – The Astronautical Congress: Flight reported that Maj. Simons “spoke of the importance of the balloon system in simulating many of the conditions that must be faced in a manned satellite, providing as it does an invaluable tool for gaining an insight into the human factors involved.

“These include a sealed cabin atmosphere, isolation, radiation heat balance, and an opportunity to observe the earth and sky from above 99 per cent of the earth’s atmosphere.”

1911 The hydrogen balloon

1912 Revival of ballooning

1914 The Parseval-Sigsfeld kite balloon

1920 Principle of the captive balloon

1922 The Gordon Bennett Balloon Race

1948 Joys of ballooning revived 

 1950 Piloting a free balloon: translating aerostatic principles into practice – what the efficient aeronaut must know…

1979 Balloon fiesta (in Alberquerque) breaks all records

1996 Technology challenge 

More balloons elsewhere on Flightglobal -

APG Photography gallery


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