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Altitude of the Highest Manned Balloon Flight

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Piccard, Don. World Book Encyclopedia. USA: World Book, 1996. "1961, US Navy Officers Victor A. Prather, Jr and Malcolm Ross rose from a zero-pressure balloon at an altitude of 113,739.9 feet." 34,668 m
Crouch, Tom D. The Eagle Aloft: Two Centuries of the Balloon in America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1983. "May 4, 1961, M.D. Ross and V.C. Prather rose at the world record of 113,740 feet." 34,668 m
Dwiggins, Don. The Air Devils: The Story of Balloonists, Barnstormers, and Stunt Pilots.Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966. "In Sept 5, 1862, Coxwell and Glaisher rose to an altitude of 39,000 feet." 12,000 m
Nagel, Walter R. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. New York: McGraw Hill, 1992. "The zero-pressure balloon is capable of reaching an altitude of 140,000 feet." 43,000 m

A balloon is a bag filled with heated air or a light gas so that it rises and floats in the air. A balloon rises because the heated air or gas inside is less dense than the surrounding air. There are two chief kinds of balloons: hot-air balloons and gas balloons. Hot-air balloons are mainly use for sporting and they rise because the air inside the balloon is warmer and lighter than the surrounding air. Charles' Law explains how this is possible. It states that the volume of a gas increases as its temperature increases and if its pressure stays the same. Gas balloons are use for sport ballooning, scientific research, and many other purposes. These balloons may be filled with hydrogen, helium, or natural gas. The four most important kinds of gas balloons are the sport balloons, expandable balloons, super pressure balloons, and the zero-pressure balloon. The last three are used for scientific purposes.

Ever since the first hot-air balloon in France in 1783, many improvements have been made. Balloons started to reach higher altitudes. In August of 1783, Jean Francois Pilatre, who was the first person to go up in a hot-air balloon, rose 80 feet (24 m). Then many other people who were brave enough, followed in his footsteps. Jacques Alexandre Charles and Marie-Noel Robert made the first flight in a hydrogen balloon in December of 1783. They rose about 2,000 feet (610 m). Then while Robert stepped out of the basket under the balloon, the balloon was relieved of his weight. Charles quickly rose over 9,000 feet (2,700 m). As of September 1862, Coxwell and Glaisher made a record breaking altitude of 39,000 feet (11,887 m). However, the air was so thin and the temperature was so low (12 °F) that they were unconscious when they reached that altitude.

In May, 1961, the current official altitude record was set. Commander Malcolm Ross and Lieutenant Victor A. Prather, Jr. of the US Navy rose 113,740 feet (34,668 m). The name of the balloon was USN Strato-Lab V. This flight was part of a program called Strato-Lab which used experimental high-altitude manned plastic balloons. Prather drowned and died after his Strato-Lab V flight. His pressure suit filled with water as he landed at sea after his record breaking flight.

Even though the highest altitude was 34,668 meters, according to the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, a zero-pressure balloon is capable of rising to an altitude of 140,000 feet (42,000 m).

Cassandra Eng -- 1997

Bibliographic Entry Result
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Introduction. Team RE/MAX Global Balloon Mission. 7 May 1998. "Mission Goals To be the first manned, nonstop balloon flight around the world."
"To set a manned ballooning altitude record: around 130,000 feet, in the stratosphere."
39,600 m

In 1996, an American balloonist named Steve Fosset took off from the Great Plains of South Dakota hoping to be the first human to circumnavigate the globe in a helium filled balloon. Mechanical problems forced him to make an emergency landing 36 hours later. Fosset was the first in the air, but he wasn't the only one with the idea. About a dozen different projects were undertaken from 1996 to 1999 by groups of balloonists looking to be the first to float nonstop around the world. Competition was quite fierce, resulting in the construction of an unusual number of advanced, high-performance balloons. One of these, Team RE/MAX, was also planning to set a new altitude record. Their intention was to circumnavigate the globe through the earth's stratosphere at the unbelievable altitude of 40,000 m -- roughly four times the cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner. Design and weather problems forced the balloon's operators to postpone and then cancel its intended launch near the end of 1998.

On Tuesday 4 May 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones successfully circumnavigated the globe in the Breitling Orbiter III, ending the quest for perhaps the last great challenge in aviation. The Team RE/MAX project was subsequently abandoned and the 1961 altitude record set by Ross and Prather remains to this day.

Editor's Supplement -- 1999

Bibliographic Entry Result
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List of records established by 'Malcom D. ROSS (USA)'. History of Aviation and Space World Records. Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
Class A (Free ballons): Absolute Record
Altitude: 34668 m
Date of flight: 04/05/1961
Pilot: Malcom D. ROSS (USA)
Crew: Victor A. PRATHER
Course/place: USS Antietam, Gulf of Mexico
Balloon: Winzen Research, "Lee Lewis Memorial"
Registered 'ONXR290WRP-1'
34,668 m
QinetiQ 1 countdown to launch has begun. QinetiQ 1 Newsroom. 1 September 2003. "British pilots Andy Elson and Colin Prescot are on their way to St Ives for the attempt to take the largest ever helium balloon to a record-breaking 132,000 ft (25 miles, 40 km) and break the 40-year-old world altitude record for a manned balloon. UK science and technology research company, QinetiQ, is sponsoring the mission which is expected to launch between 0600 and 0800 on Tuesday 2nd September. QinetiQ marketing director Brenda Jones said: 'The QinetiQ 1 balloon and flight platform is being loaded on to the deck of our ship, RV Triton, in readiness for launch. RV Triton is moored in Falmouth and will be sailing for St Ives at 0400 tomorrow morning.'" 40,000 m
Pilots abort QinetiQ 1 balloon launch. QinetiQ 1 Newsroom. 3 September 2003. "Andy Elson and Colin Prescot's manned balloon mission to space has been aborted due to a last minute technical hitch during the balloon inflation."

Editor's Supplement -- 2003

Bibliographic Entry Result
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Live Broadcast | Red Bull Stratos. 20:40 GMT 14, October 2012. Exit altitude: 128,100 feet, 39,045 m; Freefall: 4 minutes 20 seconds, 19,846 feet, 36,529 m; Maximum vertical velocity: 373 m/s, 1342.8 km/h, 833.9 mph, mach 1.24 (all results unofficial) 39,045 m

Editor's Supplement -- 2012

Bibliographic Entry Result
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Markoff, John. Parachutist's Record Fall: Over 25 Miles in 15 Minutes Alan Eustace Jumps From Stratosphere, Breaking Felix Baumgartner's World Record. New York Times. (24 October 2014). "Alan Eustace ascending to 135,890 feet on Friday. He later plummeted to earth at speeds reaching 822 miles per hour, setting off a small sonic boom heard by people on the ground." 41,419 m
Alan Eustace and the Paragon StratEx Team make stratospheric exploration history at over 135,000 feet. Paragon Space Development Corporation, 2015.
"On April 14, 2015 the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, FAI — The World Air Sports Federation released the official parachuting world record breaking numbers.
Exit Altitude
  • 41 422 m
  • Previous record 38 969.4 m set by Felix Baumgartner of Austria
Distance fall with drogue device
  • 37 623 m
  • No previous record set
Vertical speed with a drogue device
  • 1320 km/h
  • No previous record set"
41,422 m

Editor's Supplement -- 2015

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