Another first took place at White Sands Missile Range’s Space Harbor Nov. 8 with Marija Petric Miklousic, a hot air balloon pilot from Croatia, being the first person to fly in a registered solar powered balloon.
Tomas Saraceno, a Berlin, Germany based artist, worked with a company out of England to develop a solar fabric capable of lifting a human without using helium or fossil fuel.
“We are running out of fossil fuels and I think in the spirit of that we have to commit to change together,” Saraceno said.
“The artist who envisioned the flight today has been working many years with scientist to develop global solar technology for his balloons. The goal is to get people thinking about space without rockets and to get creative in developing new ways to travel in space,” said Kerry Doyle, Director of the Ruben Center for Visual Arts UTEP.
The University of Texas at El Paso Ruben Center for Visual Arts teamed up for a series of shows with artist interested in space and space technology.
The team was not sure if the balloon would be able to raise a human without the help of a propane burner. The goal of the project was to use the power of the sun to heat the air inside the balloon and raise a person. In order to comply with regulatory requirements Saraceno brought Miklousic, a hot air balloon pilot from Croatia, on board.
“I really thought this morning that we were surely going to use the propane burner to lift me up. I was surprised when it started to lift me and I was able to bounce up and down like if I were on the moon,” Miklousic said.
Miklousic is the first person to fly in a registered solar powered balloon.
“I felt great up there,” said Miklousic enthusiastically. “It was quiet with no noise from the burner. I truly felt like a bird up there.”
The team chose to conduct and document the event on WSMR due to the white sands dunes having a similar look to the landscape on the moon.
Saraceno added, “The beautiful part is today we can make it. Our countries have joined in the past to create great and was once impossible things. We can partner again to take care of the planet in different ways and still travel to space.”
Saraceno, along with the team at UTEP hope to return to WSMR in the future and eventually launch a solar powered balloon into space.
For more photos of the event visit the WSMR FLICKR page at www.flickr.com/photos/whitesandsmissilerange/.