Lt. Clifton McClure sits inside the small capsule that he would ride to 98,000 feet above the Tularosa Basin, carried aloft by a Wizen helium balloon as part of project Manhigh III. Photo credit: USAF
When you hear about balloons, the first thing that comes to mind may be the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. But did you know that balloons were also once part of the early space program?
Project Manhigh was established in 1955 at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico. The program consisted of a series of flights in high-altitude Winzen helium balloons, which tested man’s ability to live and work for long periods of time in a sealed-cabin environment.
Important data on cosmic radiation was gathered during those missions.
The Manhigh flights were a precursor to the Mercury flights of America’s first manned space program. Everyone remembers Colonel Joe Kittinger and Lt. Colonel Dave Simons who flew Manhigh I and II respectively, but what about Lieutenant Clifton McClure of Manhigh III? Did he break any records? Did he become an astronaut? More importantly, who made the Winzen helium balloons? Who was Vera Winzen?
What did she have to do with the manufacture of these specialized balloons? Join Museum Curator Sue Taylor this Friday at 9 a.m. on the museum’s first floor as she shares with you some rare photos from the museum’s archive and anecdotes about A Lieutenant and a Balloon: How High Did They Go?
The Launch Pad Lecture is free to the public and is held at 9 a.m. on the Museum’s first floor on the first Friday of each month. Coffee and donuts are compliments of the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation.
The Launch Pad Lectures are streamed live on Periscope and are also available after the lecture on the museum’s YouTube channel.
The next Launch Pad Lecture will be on November 1st, and the topic will be Best Camping Trip Ever: The Flight of Apollo 12 with Museum Outreach Coordinator Tony Gondola.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org website or ‘like’ their Facebook page