National Geographic : 1936 Jan
MAN'S FARTHEST ALOFT Now the balloon started to rise rapidly, but for a minute or more we did nothing but watch it to see if it would again show any tendency to settle. It continued climbing steadily. It was then apparent that we had encountered a strong downward trend of air which had forced the balloon earthward just as we swept towards the rim. Our electrical bal last-dumping device had worked perfectly, but it now remained to be proved whether our huge valves could halt the swift rise of the balloon. With both of us in side the gondola, Andy opened the valve con trols. We watched the gauges and saw that the craft was still as cending far too fast. Unless we could check the ascent, we would not have enough time properly to inspect our outside rigging before being forced to close the manholes. Andy valved, and valved again and again! As he opened the valves for still another half-minute interval Photograph by Richard H. Stewart ATTACHING THE CORD THAT SLIT THE BAG ON LANDING A rip at the right time, to release all gas in landing, is necessary to bring a balloon flight to a successful conclusion. Here J. F. Cooper, balloon builder of the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation, and two assist ants have installed in the fabric of Explorer II a small, flexible steel cable which sliced the balloon's top as neatly as a sharp knife (Plate IV). The rip cord, a woven rope stained red, is shown here. (which is a very long time for a balloon to be valved at low altitude), the balloon started to slow down. By this time we had reached 12,000 feet. Captain Anderson did not want to check our headway altogether, so he kept us moving slowly upward to 16,000 feet. GONDOLA TOP AN OBSERVATION PLATFORM Many people think it must have been extremely dangerous for us to walk around on the slippery surface on top of a gondola hanging in space. Actually there was no sensation of danger whatever. We climbed in and out, up and down, like monkeys, always having a handhold and a foothold. The ten 1-inch ropes that suspended the gondola from the rope load ring, six feet higher, were stretched taut and were practically as rigid as iron bars. Each of these ropes carried nearly 1,000 pounds of weight. Together, they formed a cage through which it would have been difficult to fall, unless one really tried to fall, as in the parachute jumps that Major William E. Kepner and Captain Anderson made from the Explorer I in 1934.