Flights of Explorer I and II In 1934 the National Geographic Society and the Air Corps co-sponsored a balloon flight to investigate the stratosphere. Suspended below a mammoth hydrogen-filled balloon was the sealed gondola named the Explorer, which was designed to carry three passengers. The flight began at 5:45 a.m. on July 28, 1934, from a "natural bowl" site near Rapid City, S.D. When the balloon reached 60,613 feet, it developed several tears and the crew decided to descend. At approximately 3,000 feet, the balloon burst and the gondola hurtled earthward. The crewmen safely parachuted shortly before the gondola crashed in a Nebraska cornfield. Using a new and larger balloon, this time filled with helium, and a larger gondola named the Explorer II, another flight was made on Nov. 11, 1935, by two of the crew who had made the 1934 flight. An amazing altitude of 72,395 feet was attained and the flight was judged a complete success, with mankind obtaining for the first time a mass of scientific data on such subjects as cosmic rays, ozone distribution, composition of the atmosphere and micro-organisms above 36,000 feet. Click here to return to the Balloons & Airships Overview.