How Do Hot Air Balloons Work?

Caption: An early test flight of a Montgolfier brothers' balloon.

History of Hot Air Balloons
In 1783, two French brothers named Etienne and Joseph Montgolfier launched the first hot air balloon. It stayed in the air for about fifteen minutes before its passengers - a duck, a sheep, and a rooster - crashed to the ground. The first balloon carrying a person was launched on November 21st of that year.

How do hot air balloons work? The answer is a simple principle called buoyancy. Hot air rises in colder air because warm air is less dense than cooler air. Think of a cork, which is less dense than water, floating in a stream. This is much the same way a hot air balloon floats in the air.

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