90 years ago: Man enters the stratosphere for the first time

Text: Charlie de la Royère
Translation: Jacques Vanderstappen

"The public does not sufficiently understand that pure science is the indispensable condition of applied science and that the fate of nations that neglect science and scientists is marked for decadence.
Albert, 1 October 1927

On the initiative of King Albert, the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) was created in 1928 by a group of scientists and industrialists as a public utility foundation to attract patrons and finance scientific research.

One of the initial tasks of the FNRS was to finance the expedition of the first stratospheric balloon, provided by Auguste Piccard.

Built by the firm Riedinger in Augsburg, the 30-metre diameter balloon was inflated with hydrogen to 2/10 of its volume, to reach a total capacity of 14,130 m3, thanks to the expansion of the gas heated by the sun's rays during its ascent. Pear-shaped at take-off, the balloon will appear spherical as it gains altitude. The envelope consists of a rubber core covered with cotton. For information, the Gordon-Bennett Cup balloons have a capacity of 2,200 m3. The hermetically sealed metal cabin with a diameter of 2.10 m ...

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