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A Little Holiday for an Incredible Technological Achievement
For most of the time since humans have been on this earth, we’ve looked up at the sky — the clouds, birds, sun, and stars — and wondered what it would be like to join them there. When the Greeks told the story of Icarus, who attached feathers to his arms and flew above the ground (if only to fall later), they did so with a reverence for the heavens, and that reverence was carried down for generations.
Da Vinci designed gliders.
French inventors Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes flew the first hot air balloon. However, both were subject to the winds. It was not until the Wright brothers made the first controlled, sustained flight with a heavier-than-air craft in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903 that humans could truly claim mastery over the skies. It was the day we could finally be among the birds and clouds, even if the sun and stars were still out of reach.
This month, we celebrate National Aviation Day on Aug. 19 — the birthday of Orville Wright.
His and his brother’s invention was one of the most impactful technological developments in modern history. Just over 10 years later, the first commercial airline began flying between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida. Not 15 years later, the descendants of the Wright brothers’ aircraft became an instrumental weapon in WWI.
In 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly (as a passenger) across the Atlantic, before making the flight solo four years later. Then, in 1961, Alan Shepard became the first man to fly into space. Finally, the sun and the stars seemed within reach. Just eight years after that, Neal Armstrong walked on the moon.
There are so many other developments and discoveries that have happened between that first flight at Kitty Hawk and now. Supersonic flight, the turbine jet engine, and the International Space Station all came to be within 125 years of the Wright brothers’ first flight. Their invention is a testament to human ingenuity and a reason for celebration on Aug. 19.
Happy National Aviation Day, everyone. May you spend it looking up at the sky in wonder.
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