I’m on a Quest–but not the Kind You Expect

My quest is to find information that my father doesn’t already know. I call him in awe, glee, confusion, angst about what I’ve learned, and for all intents and purposes, he says, “yup, I knew that.” Now, he’s  nicer about it, but still. Is there anything this man doesn’t know?

I called after visiting the White Sands Missile Range Museum one day and the Museum of Nuclear History the next. To say I was freaked out by reality would be an understatement. We’ll get to that in a few days–after I visit the museum for the Manhattan Project. A terrifying Trifecta.

So after I got a better connect-the-dots history lesson than a book could offer, Dad asked what was next on the agenda. The Balloon Museum in Albuquerque. Ahh, romance, colors, freedom, fun. Dad slightly spoiled the delight by saying that hot air balloons were perfected for military surveillance. Lo and behold, multiple exhibits convey the same point. Dammit! He IS the man who knew too much. 

Balloons Are Pretty and Whimsical

balloon musuem

France invented the balloon in 1783. The first was made of paper, and paper and fabric, and then silk, and then…until we get to today’s technologically advanced material. And the museum lets you take scraps–like a dog, I was happy with what I got!

The first airborne beings? A duck, a sheep, and chicken. They did not walk into a bar, but after successfully breathing air and surviving the landing, the sheep retired to Marie Antoinette’s menagerie. No one knows what became of the duck and the rooster. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.

Balloon Fun

Balloons became a part of festivals after the Civil War. Military balloonists were looking for a way to make some money–since there was nothing to surveil anymore. So they became barnstormers (folks who sold tickets to flight related experiences), charged for rides, set off fireworks from the sky, and performed trapeze acts.

In 1858, the first aerial photography was taken from the sky via hot air balloon!

And the museum carries the whimsy in the bathroom tiles. Smile.


How Does a Hot Air Balloon Work?

Warmer air rises even further in cooler air. Altitude brings cooler air. Add propane gas to the balloon, and the air inside the “envelope” is now warmer than its surroundings. Up, up you go!

I’ve been ballooning twice and watched a balloon glow once. It’s no place for someone who is both claustrophobic and agoraphobic, but it’s awesome for the rest of us!

The museum lets you try your skill at flying, using gaming technology. I failed miserably. And…moving on.

balloon musuem1

So What’s a Blimp?

An enclosed balloon of sorts. It has no internal structure, so the gas pressure defines the shape. The word “Blimp” comes from the military use: “British Series B Limp.”

Then things evolved to Zeppelins (the inventor’s last name), which were first for people transport and then for German bombings in WWI. A totally natural evolution.

Blimps and Zeppelins and the like are called “airships.”

Aeronaut Before Astronaut

Before we could make it to space, we had to make it as far into the sky as possible. Enter Stratolab and others. In 1941 it was piloted 113,739 feet in to the air. That’s 21.5 miles; NASA considers someone an astronaut if they’ve been up 50 miles.


Round the World Flight in a Balloon

The first successful trip was in 1999, and the first attempt was in 1981–I was surprised that it was so “late” in exploration. The 1999 trip lasted from March 1-20. Speed demon!


Have you ever been in a balloon? Gone skydiving? Bungee jumping? Hang gliding?
What was the experience like for you?

Disclosure: Thank you to Albuquerque Tourism for the complimentary ticket to the museum.

3 Responses


Q: Is there anything this man doesn’t know?
A: Ask him to recite the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. You may earn a point. If you don’t, we may have to start calling him Father Si.


Your Comments
Paula, it coild be fun though frustrating to try the game of “Stump Si” but you should be applauded for trying!


Thanks for the info on aeronats and how blimp got its name. Come on trivia questions!

I have been skydiving (tandem and static line), bungie jumping, paragliding and hang gliding. I would love to repel off a building and to try the zero gravity plane flights.

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