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The Birth of Human Aviation: Montgolfier Brothers' 1783 Hot Air Balloon


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Celebrate human aviation history by building one of its first successes!

The history

The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, were French paper makers before they became pioneers of flight. They happened to notice that laundry drying over a fire would rise with the smoke. This gave them inspiration to experiment with the rising effects and develop early hot air balloons. By 1782, they successfully tested a balloon that flew 2km. It was not the first time someone in the world harnessed hot air for flying objects. (Chinese lanterns were way ahead of the brothers.) However, the brothers had the ambition that humans could fly in their balloons, and that they could make a spectacle of the process.

In 1783, the brothers began doing public demonstrations of their balloons as they worked towards having the first human flight. The first live aeronauts sent up in a Montgolfier balloon were a sheep named "Montauciel", a duck, and a rooster on September 19th 1783. Thankfully, all the animals landed safely after a 3km flight, giving confidence that humans could fly safely as well. On November 21st of the same year, that's exactly what happened. Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes went up in a Montgolfier balloon just outside of Paris, flew 9km in 25 minutes, and landed safely. It was the first ever untethered human flight, and the start of humanity's journey into the skies (and later into space).

Note: This is my summary of information referenced from Wikipedia

The build

This model depicts the first ever 1783 flight of a Montgolfier balloon carrying human aeronauts. It includes:

  • Replica of the Montgolfier brothers` richly decorated balloon
  • Platform with bonfire that inflated and launched the balloon. This also doubles as a display stand for the balloon
  • Poles that tethered the balloon during inflation (but are purely decorative here since Lego doesn't inflate)
  • 2 Minifigure pilots representing Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes
  • Sheep, rooster, and duck animal figures (so you can represent their pioneering flight as well)

The model stands 11.5" (29cm) high with the balloon mounted on the stand. The full layout with the platform and stands has a 10" (25.5cm) by 5" (12.5cm) footprint. I don't know an exact piece count because the model is brick-built, but I would guess it is beneath 1000.

The Lego Ideas pitch

Lego has always released sets to celebrate innovation and inspire the next generation of builders. That includes tributes to aerospace with sets depicting landmarks like the Wright brothers' plane, Amelia Earhart plane, and Space Shuttle. Now it's time to dig back further in history to where it all started when humans first dared to ascend into the air. Support the Montgolfier brothers' balloon to become the next Lego Ideas set!

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