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Flying High ATOS 6.6

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Flying High

For thousands of years people dreamed of flying. Some tried to make themselves wings like birds, others jumped from high places with umbrellas, and some used large hats. The results were often disastrous. Then in 1783, the dream of flight became true. Two French brothers called Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier had an interest in science. Their father owned a paper manufacturing company where the brothers worked. One day the brothers watched with interest as paper ashes travelled up the factory's chimney. Later, they tested to see if a silk purse would travel up the chimney and it did. The brothers believed that they had discovered a mysterious gas and called it Montgolfier gas. This new gas was not new or mysterious. It was simply warm air but at the time it was not understood that warm air weighs less than cool air. Therefore an object filled with warm air will rise. The brothers conducted many experiments. They built fires with wet hay, shoes, and wool believing that smoke created lift. They watched as their fabric balloons lifted into the air but dreamed of building a balloon big enough to carry people.

On September 19, 1783 the Montgolfiers' were invited to fly the first hot-air balloon at the Palace of Versailles, France. The Montgolfiers' made an elaborate balloon for the occasion. Their big balloon was made of cotton and paper, and held together with buttons. It had King Louis XVI's monogram of interlocking L's on it. A round wicker basket for passengers hung from the balloon by a rope. The air up high was thought to be too light for humans to breath. So the first passengers were a sheep, a rooster, and a duck. Over 100,000 people including the Royal court and the Royal family came out to watch. King Louis XVI stayed in his royal apartment. He watched through a telescope. The audience cheered as the balloon rose 1640 feet (500 m) up into the air before descending eight minutes later. The balloon and its passengers had travelled 2 miles (3.5 km).

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