French brothers Joseph-Michel Montgolfier (1740 – 1810) and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745 – 1799) were the inventors of the first practical hot air balloon.

The first free (non tethered) human flight took place on November 21, 1783, by science teacher Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent, Marquis d’Arlandes. The flight began from the grounds of the Château de la Muette in the western outskirts of Paris. They flew aloft about 3,000 feet (910 m) above Paris for a distance of about 5.6 miles (9 km). After 25 minutes, the balloon landed outside the city ramparts on the Butte-aux-Cailles.

The Montgolfière in the Museum’s lobby, built by volunteer Alex Morton, is a 1/10 scale model of the balloon that carried humans aloft on November 21, 1783.