There is something that exists in the hearts of all men that dares us to try to do something new. This feeling is why we built the pyramids, why we “discovered” new continents, why we went to the moon. Common knowledge said that it couldn’t be done, and someone finally got the courage to prove common knowledge wrong.
It may end up being the thing that saves or kills mankind, but either way, it will define us. Our thirst for knowledge and new discoveries will continue to drive us as a species. That is why it’s unfortunate that we tend to misuse that feeling. When someone tells us, “You’re a damn fool to try that,” we think we’re just smart enough to try it.
At some point, someone told Jonathan Trappe of North Carolina that he couldn’t travel by balloon solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Last week, Trappe took off from Caribou, Maine, in a basket-looking kind of thing with a large number of helium balloons tied to it. Because all fantastic plot elements of Pixar movies would work equally well in real life. Destination: France!
Just 12 hours later, he was forced to land in Newfoundland, Canada, after experiencing problems that no one could have foreseen. His craft would shoot up to 21,000 feet, then plunge back down until it touched water, then it would shoot back up again. This got kind of tiresome for Trappe, so he decided to call it quits and invade Canada.
This sounds like a hare-brained scheme, doesn’t it? Every decade or so some crackpot decides to attach some balloons and a six-pack to a folding chair and go for a ride. This guy seemed to be a bit more organized than that. He had Joe Kittinger as an adviser. You may know him as that guy who made the skydive from the edge of space in 1960. You also may remember him as that guy who advised and communicated with Felix Baumgartner as his own record was finally broken. (Brought to you by Red Bull. It gives you wings, or just inspires you to free fall.)
Kittinger must either hate retirement or have some serious debts to pay off, because it kind of sounds like you can hire him to be your adviser on just about anything these days.
In all, the expertise he got from Kittinger and his other advisers got them 350 miles, 2,515 miles short of the coast of France. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
But in reality, Trappe wasn’t doing this to be the first to do anything (unless you count design), because the first people to cross the Atlantic by balloon did so in 1976. He wouldn’t have even been the first person to do it solo. That honor goes to, you guessed it: Kittinger, who did it in 1984.