NOVA: Ben Franklin's Balloon
The epic first stage in the adventure of human flight didn't begin with the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk but with daring inventors and aeronauts in 18th century Paris. In a period of just 19 months, humanity not only left the ground for the first time, but a handful of brilliant and colorful pioneers developed all the essential features of today's hot air and gas balloons. Their exploits fascinated Benjamin Franklin, who was serving in Paris as the American ambassador, and created a sensation in the city.
To explore this extraordinary burst of innovation, NOVA recreates key flights, including the world's first manned voyage on November 21, 1783. A descendant of the Montgolfier brothers, who invented the hot air balloon, will join a team to build a highly accurate replica of the fragile paper and canvas craft using 18th century tools and materials. NOVA reveals the secrets of how the Montgolfiers invented flight, and evokes the thrilling and daunting prospect that the balloon pioneers faced as they left Earth for the first time.
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