As autumn merged with winter, Rozier and the Montgolfier brothers’ worked on a larger, more durable vessel in the shape of a giant lemon, equipped with a circular wicker compartment that looked like a giant bracelet and hung near the bottom with a separate iron fire basket. The balloon’s skin was painted blue and gold and ornamented with gold fleurs-de-lis, the monogram of Louis XVI.Share
No one thought it prudent to dispatch two men into the atmosphere without first conducting tests. The group settled on ropes to hold the balloon in place while Rozier climbed aboard and was slowly raised to a height of 80 feet, where he maintained his position by fine-tuning the fire’s intensity. Four days later Rozier rose to 250 feet, the vessel was pulled down, Marquis Arlandes joined him onboard, and the two floated up to 350 feet.
On the appointed hour and day, November 21, 1783, at Chateau de la Muette, the sky was partly cloudy and the wind puffed in from the northwest. The first attempt went awry, however, when a hard gust blew the balloon into one of the garden walks. The ropes rubbed against the fabric, causing several tears, the longest stretching six feet.
Two hours later at 1:54 p.m., after repairs were affected, the world’s first aeronauts set off. There was a hush as the balloon cut a majestic figure as it rose over the palace.
“No one could help feeling a mingled sentiment of fear and admiration,” attested an octet of observers that included Benjamin Franklin in a signed affidavit later that day. (Read more.)