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Madness Technology: Thousand Balloon Flying

Probably, it seems to you that to rise above the peaks of Elbrus on a bunch of balloons is a completely insane undertaking? It seems right to you. But to find out exactly how crazy this idea is, only one person decided in our country. Along the way, setting a world record, which is still not beaten by anyone, and perhaps forever remains unattainable.
Madness Technology: Thousand Balloon Flying
In total, Vitaly Kulikov made two flights. The first took place on September 25, 2004. On 360 balls pumped with hydrogen, the pilot climbed to a height of 400 m and flew 8.5 km in 25 minutes

When Muscovite Vitaly Kulikov flew into the sky 14 years ago, and then, rising to a record height, he went downstairs – though, barely surviving and raising the Ministry of Emergencies and the police to his feet – many wrote and even talked about this event on television . But then the journalists were mainly interested in the dramatic ups and downs of the flight itself and the subsequent rescue operation. We decided to recall those events in order to talk about the technology of such a seemingly not too high-tech project. But should there be tricks here?

Completely nonsense balls
Even the craziest ventures, and especially those that end up successfully, require careful preparation. Vitaly Kulikov – a graduate of the Physics Department of Moscow State University – began planning his flights from afar: with calculations, tables, lists of everything you need. Of course, it is not so difficult to calculate the lift of an aircraft easier than air, knowing the properties of helium, the weight of the shell, and having data on air density at different heights. But how many people in history have seriously calculated how many decorative balls it would take to lift a person weighing 90 kg to a certain height?

Famous predecessors
The pioneer of flying in bundles of small helium balloons (cluster balooning) was the American Larry Walters, who later received the nickname Larry Cottage Chair. On July 2, 1982, Mr. Walters, with the help of his girlfriend, connected 45 four-pound meteorological balloons to the summer cottage and climbed to almost five-kilometer height. The flight lasted 45 minutes. Shooting balls from a pistol with rubber bullets, Larry conducted a controlled descent and a hit, after which he was immediately arrested. The record was never registered: Walters did not have a certified altimeter with him. Today, Briton Ian Ashpole is considered the official world record holder, who in 1987 rose with the help of 600 balloons inflated with helium 11,000 feet (3350 m). At a record height, the balls suddenly began to burst one after another, so Ian thought he was hearing a machine gun burst. Ashpool’s name is listed in the Guinness Book of Records. Nowadays, in the United States, known for its relatively liberal air legislation, there is a society of balloon lovers.
For example, as Kulikov’s calculations show, a little more than 200 balls should be enough to climb 2100 m. To be at 4200 m, where the air density drops from 1.23 kg / m3 near the ground to 0.71 kg / m3, and the traction force of one ball is halved – from 0.61 kgf to 0.31 kgf, it will take at least 289 balls. For a height of 10,000 meters, a cluster of 1,500 balls will have to be formed, and a flight of 13,000 meters will require 7,600 balls. However, the last two paragraphs from Vitaliy Kulikov’s table can be of purely theoretical interest – above 7000 m the rubber shells most likely crack and burst due to low temperatures.

Here we need to make some clarification. The balls with which Vitaliy Kulikov conquered the heights are not exactly those that are given to children on holidays and distributed to adults at exhibitions. Small standard balls, if pumped with helium, have too low traction and are very fragile. It was necessary to find a more suitable option, based on several parameters, such as size, shell strength and price. The choice fell on a decorative latex ball worth 47 rubles. After inflation, it had a diameter of about 120 cm.

Air Racing: From Fiction to Reality
ADRENALIN
Air Racing: From Fiction to Reality

Vitaly Kulikov’s detailed notes have kept a complete list of what the non-flying pilot took with him on his risky voyage. These are documents, money, a barometric altimeter, a cell phone with a hands-free headset, a GPS receiver (without a map), a compass-altimeter, a camera, a video camera, a voice recorder, 10 meters of cable, a knife, matches, salt, water, food (liter apple juice, a chocolate bar, half a loaf of sliced ​​bread), a rocket launcher, a whistle, a paper map of the area, 10 liters of ballast (non-freezing liquid) and, of course, a parachute. The list does not contain an oxygen apparatus, which was an additional risk factor. Hypoxia (oxygen starvation of the brain) could well overtake the pilot at an altitude of over 5,000 m and lead to tragedy. In order to control the brain and timely warn of danger.

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