Piccard's balloon expedition lands safely with data intact

June 03 1931
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GURGL, Austria, May 28, 1931 (UP) - The balloon expedition of Prof. Auguste Piccard into the stratosphere above the known layers of atmosphere around the earth came to a successful conclusion today on a high glacier near the Austro-Italian frontier.

Professor Piccard and his companion, Charles Kipfer, landed their balloon with its priceless scientific instruments, used to gather new atmospheric data, on the Gurgl glacier last night and made their way safely to this village today. Later they returned to the glacier to supervise packing of their instruments.

The Brussels university professor announced the expedition to a distance of almost 10 miles from the earth had been successful and that he believed the new data collected would revise various meteorological theories.

He indicated that he planned to make other journeys into the stratosphere in the future, depending chiefly on his study of the material gathered yesterday.

"We landed without difficulty after picking out the glacier because it offered a fairly even surface compared to the jagged rocks nearby," said Professor Piccard. "We jolted slightly when the gondola scraped over the glacier, but the balloon was scarcely damaged.

"Our flight from Augsburg (Bavaria) was made at an average height of 30,000 feet. We had originally planned to land on the plains of Northern Italy."

The group of rescuers who went out from Gurgl to aid the scientist me them at an altitude of about 9,000 feet. The rescuers were headed by an expert skier, Hans Faltner, the village schoolmaster.

Professor Piccard revealed that the warm atmosphere close to the earth prevented the balloon from landing yesterday.

He expressed astonishment and was slightly angry when informed that most persons watching from the ground believed the flight had been a failure when the balloon did land yesterday.

The two scientists said they had not slept for 48 hours, being unable to sleep in the balloon carriage because of the intense cold.

Professor Piccard and Kipfer came to Gurgi after remaining last night on the glacier. They met a group of Alpine climbers who had gone out from Soeldon to aid them. The rescue party offered them aid, but the two scientists said they merely needed refreshment.

"We asked them for a cup of tea," Professor Piccard said, "because we were very thirsty. They also said that we were safe after a successful flight."

The balloon will be taken to Imst by auto truck and thence by train to Augsburg.

Professor Piccard announced that atmospheric pressure in the highest strata reached by the balloon was 75 millimeters.

Kipfer was in good spirits when he reached Gurgl.

"The greatest altitude was reached between 4:30 a.m. (33 minutes after the start) and 7:30 a.m. Wednesday," he said. "At that time the balloon varied in altitude only a few hundred yards and he had a wonderful opportunity to make observations of the ionization of the air and in regard to the cosmic rays.

"Our oxygen apparatus worked perfectly and, despite the low temperature of the stratosphere, it was never below zero within the gondola."

Piccard then added to the story, saying that he had conducted "highly successful experiments at an altitude of about 9 to 9 1/2 miles. "We tested the increase in conductivity of gases in cosmic rays and found the conductivity comparatively high," Piccard said. This observation was made in connection with one of the theories of Prof. Albert Einstein, a theory which has long been under dispute, and which still is in doubt.

"We beat the world's altitude record by about 2 1/2 miles in reaching a height of approximately 52,100 feet. The trip provided. I believe, that the stratosphere is navigable and that man, with modern technical methods, will be able to master this region of high-pressure cold.

"I believe our studies will make travel in the stratosphere possible in the future.

"I am glad to have been able to aid in inaugurating a new era in serial transportation and I hope others will now attempt to make similar flights and will break my record."

"I never doubted the success of the enterprise because everything was minutely organized in advance," Professor Piccard said. "but it was very cold and we suffered some hardships above 30,000 feet. The barograph kept rising and at one time I thought we would never cease ascending. Just for a moment I felt we were a little above 16,000 meters the balloon stopped and then began descending slowly. Finally dropping to 4,000 meters in a little more than an hour.

"At that altitude we halted, without apparent cause. It probably was due to the much warmer temperature

"After sunset the cooler air enabled us to continue the descent, but we were faced with the danger of winds forcing us against the rocky mountain walls. Of course, we were lucky to land on the glacier, not far from habitation."

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