1783: First manned balloon flight by Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes from Paris

1785: French ballonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries cross the English Channel. (De Rozier dies earlier that same year in a Channel attempt.)

1793: Blanchard makes the first balloon flight in America, from Philadelphia, Penn., to Gloucester County, N.J. President George Washington watches the launch.

Early 1900s: Balloons are used primarily for military purposes

1931: Auguste Piccard (the grandfather of Brietling Orbiter 3 pilot Bertrand Piccard) invents the first pressurized balloon gondola and ascends to 51,00 feet with his copilot Paul Kipfer. They are the first humans to reach the edge of the stratosphere.

1957: Major David Simons establishes an altitude record of 101,516 feet in Manhigh II.

1960: Edward Yost introduces the era of modern balloons with the invention of the onboard propane burner.

1978: Americans Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman and Max Anderson make the first balloon crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

1981: First nonstop North American transcontinental balloon flight by Fred Gorell and John Shucraft; first transpacific balloon flight by Newman, Abruzzo, Aoki and Clark

1984: First solo transatlantic balloon flight by Joseph W. Kittinger, from Caribou, Maine, to Cairo Montenotte, Italy

1995: First solo transpacific balloon flight by Steve Fossett, from Seoul, Korea, to Mendham, Saskatchewan, Canada

1997: Steve Fossett flying the Solar Spirit fails in an around-the-world attempt, but sets a new balloon distance record of 10,360 miles.

1998: Solo flyer Fossett breaks his own distance record by topping 11,000 miles before his balloon bursts over the Pacific; Bertrand Piccard, Andy Elson and Tony Brown, flying in Brietling Orbiter 2, set an endurance record of nine days, 17 hours, but are forced to land in Myanmar when China refuses to allow them to overfly its airspace.

1999: Andy Elson and Colin Prescot in Britain's Cable and Wireless balloon set a new endurance record of 17 days, 18 hours, and 12,257 miles before weather defeats them in the Pacific Ocean near Japan on March 7.

March 21, 1999: Bertrand Piccard and Tony Brown in Brietling Orbiter 3 smash all records and take the prize. They become the first to circumnavigate the globe; they set an endurance record of 19 days, 21 hours and 55 minutes aloft and a distance record of more than 29,000 miles.

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