Return of Charles and Robert's balloon, France, 2 December 1783.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Illustration of the balloon used by Jacques Charles and Nicolas Robert on the first manned (free flight) ascent of a hydrogen balloon. It was designed by French physics profesor Charles (1746-1823), and constructed by Robert (1761-1828) and his brother Jean. It set off in front of a crowd of 400,000, landing two hours later at Nesles-la-Vallee, over 27 miles (43 km) away. Robert alighted here but Charles re-ascended in the balloon, reaching an altitude of over 9000 feet (2.7 km). From 'Histoire des ballons et des aeronautes celebres: 1783-1800' (History of balloons and famous aeronauts), by Gaston Tisandier (1843-1899), published in 1887.