National Balloon Ascension Day Date in the current year: January 9, 2024

National Balloon Ascension Day National Balloon Ascension Day is observed annually on January 9. It commemorates the first manned balloon flight in the United States that took place on this day in 1793.

Balloons are unpowered lighter-than-air aircraft, which remain aloft or float due to their buoyancy. The three main types of balloons are Montgolfière (hot air balloon), Charlière (gas balloon), and Rozière (hybrid balloon that has two separate chambers for both heated and unheated gases).

The history of unmanned balloons spans nearly two millennia. For example, in ancient China airborne paper lanterns lifted by heated air were used for military signaling circa 3rd century AD. However, the history of modern manned ballooning, both with hot air and gas, starts much later, in the 18th century.

The first hot air balloon and the first gas balloon were built and demonstrated in France in the same year. The brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier built the first hot air balloon. Its first public demonstration was held on September 19, 1783; it was an unmanned flight carrying a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. The first tethered flight by a Montgolfier balloon took place on October 15, 1783, and the first untethered, free flight was on November 21, 1783.

The first gas balloon was designed by Jacques Charles and the brothers Anne-Jean and Nicholas-Louis Robert. It used hydrogen as a lifting gas. The balloon made its first unmanned flight in August 1783 and its first manned flight on December 1, 1783, ten days after the first manned flight in a hot air balloon.

The next great milestone in the history of ballooning was the flight across the English Channel accomplished by French inventor Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American doctor and scientist John Jeffries. Blanchard made his first successful flight in a hydrogen gas balloon in Paris in 1784, then took two successful flights in England, and finally flew over the English Channel from Dover Castle to Guînes on January 5, 1786.

After his successful flight over the English Channel, Blanchard toured Europe with balloon demonstrations and made the first balloon flights in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. He also made the first balloon flight in the Americas. On January 9, 1793, Blanchard launched his hydrogen gas balloon from the yard of Walnut Street Prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and landed in Deptford, New Jersey. Among those who witnessed the flight were then-president George Washington, and the future presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

The history of National Balloon Ascension Day is somewhat murky, but it has been observed since at least 2011. There are many ways to observe this amazing holiday. You can celebrate it by learning more about the history of ballooning, booking a tethered or untethered balloon ride, or planning a trip to a hot air balloon festival. And don’t forget to spread the word about the holiday on social media with the hashtags #NationalBalloonAscentsonDay and #BalloonAscensionDay.

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National Balloon Ascension Day, observances in the United States, unofficial holidays, Jean-Pierre Blanchard