Ben Franklin’s Balloons
The first stage in the adventure of human flight began with daring inventors and aeronauts in 18th-century Paris, where a handful of brilliant and colorful pioneers developed all the essential features of today’s hot air and gas balloons. Their exploits fascinated Benjamin Franklin, who was serving in Paris as the American ambassador. To explore this burst of innovation, NOVA re-creates key flights, including the world’s first manned voyage on November 21, 1783. A descendant of the Montgolfier brothers, who invented the hot-air balloon, will join a team to build an accurate replica of the fragile paper and canvas craft using 18th-century tools and materials. NOVA evokes the thrilling and daunting prospect that the balloon pioneers faced as they left Earth for the first time.