The first hot air balloon rose 1,800 m (6,000 ft) on June 5, 1783. It was made of linen and paper and built by two brothers, Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier in Annonay, France. A few months later, on August 27, 1783, Jacques A. C. Charles released a balloon made of varnished silk that covered 43 km (27 mi.) and was filled with hydrogen gas. Later that same year, a Montgolfier balloon became the first balloon to carry passengers (assorted farm animals) and then in November, two men, Jean-François P. Roziere and François Laurent, made the first official manned flight across Paris in a Montgolfier balloon.
After this beginning, the use of hot air balloons spread widely. In 1785 Jean Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, and the American John Jeffries crossed the English Channel in a balloon. The first balloon flight in America was launched in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793.
In 1935 a new altitude record was set and remained for 20 Years. The Explorer II, a helium gas balloon, set the altitude record at 72,395 feet or 13.7 miles, with two crewmembers on board. For the first time in history, it was proven that humans could travel and survive in a pressurized chamber at extremely high altitudes. This flight set a milestone for aviation and paved the way for future space travel and the concept of manned flight in space. The highly publicized flight was also able to carry live radio broadcasts from the balloon.
Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger jumped from a balloon at 102,800 feet on August 16th 1960 and set a world high altitude parachute jump (during which he broke the sound barrier with his body) and freefall record that still stands today.
In 1987 Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson flew a distance of 2,900 miles in 33 hours across the Atlantic and set a new record for hot air ballooning. The balloon, at the time, was the largest ever flown at 2.3 million cubic feet of capacity.
On March 21, 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, in the Breitling Orbiter 3, made a perfect landing in southeast Egypt. They flew for 19 days, 21 hours and 55 minutes and beat all previous records of duration and distance.