On Dec. 17, 1903, the Wright brothers' Flyer took to the air at Kitty Hawk, N.C.
(Image: © NASA)
Orville and Wilbur might jump to mind. But the Wright Brothers were half a century late.
Lots of pioneers risked their necks over many decades (and even centuries) to get humans off the ground by various means, from flapping their pseudo-wings to gliding off cliffs.
Still, few are remembered so well or mentioned so often as the Wright Brothers, whose "Flying Machine" was the first powered airplane to execute controlled and sustained flight. They did it on Dec. 17, 1903. The pilot was Orville, since Wilbur had taken his turn in a failed previous attempt. The Wright Flyer was in the air for 12 seconds and went 120 feet.
But this was not the first human flight.
Modern flight began in 1783 when Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier engineered the first hot-air balloon flights. On Oct. 15, 1783, the Montgolfiers brothers launched a balloon on a tether with Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, a chemistry and physics teacher, as the passenger. In that era, nobody knew if a person could withstand the rigors of being up in the air, so a previous flight had included animals, to see if they survived. They did, as did de Rozier. Later that year, the first untethered flight was made.
现代飞行始于1783年，当时约瑟夫·迈克尔和雅克·艾蒂安·孟格菲设计了第一次热气球飞行。1783年10月15日，孟戈菲兄弟用绳子放飞了一个气球，乘客是化学和物理老师让-弗朗索瓦·皮拉特·德·罗齐耶(Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier)。在那个时代，没有人知道一个人是否能承受在空中的严酷，所以之前的一次飞行包括动物，看看他们是否能活下来。他们做到了，德罗齐尔也做到了。同年晚些时候，人类完成了第一次无系绳飞行。
The Wright Brothers' achievement is sometimes erroneously called "the first powered flight." Even that's disputed.
The first powered flight was Henri Giffard's steam-powered airship (image below) in 1852. On Sept. 24, 1852, Giffard traveled almost 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Paris to Trappes moving at about 6 miles per hour (10 kilometers/hour). His airship could be steered only in calm weather, though. In wind, it could fly only in slow circles.
Clément Ader went half the length of a football field in a bat-winged setup that many view as the first manned, powered, heavier-than-air flight in 1890.
The Wright Brothers achievement is properly called "the first manned, powered, heavier-than-air and (to some degree) controlled" flight.