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The first ascent in a hydrogen balloon, 1 December 1783.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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Watercolour painting showing Charles and Robert's ascent from the Tuilleries. This balloon, designed by the French profesor of physics, Jacques Charles (1746-1823), and constructed by the brothers Jean and Noel Robert, was used in the first manned free flight of a hydrogen balloon on 1 December 1783. Charles and Noel Robert set off from the gardens of the Tuilleries in Paris at 1.40pm and landed two hours later at Nesle-la-Vallee, between Nesle and Hedouville, over 27 miles (43 km) away. The balloon itself had many innovations: a valve in the crown to release gas and so descend; a net over the envelope from which the car and the ballast was slung; and a barometer to act as an altimeter. This event marked the birth of modern ballooning.
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