The fantastical film ‘Up’ features an old man, tired of being tethered to the ground, flying away using hundreds of helium-filled balloons. In real life, the world-record-setting cluster required to accomplish this was (amazingly) even smaller than the movie’s makers imagined.
As part of a new National Geographic series titled “How Hard Can it Be?“, a real-life replica home was created in the flat deserts of California and released into the air – it went aloft eerily like the fictional version, and stayed up for over an hour.
Each eight-foot-diameter balloon required one whole tank of helium to inflate, while a team of volunteers took days constructing the simple A-frame-house replica that would take the test flight.
A team of hot air balloon pilots and engineers made sure it would work in theory, but no would could be certain how it would pan out in practice – the photos and videos, though, show an incredible success.
“The adorable 2,000-pound, 16×16-foot yellow house took to the skies with the aid of 300 weather balloons that grow to 8 feet tall when inflated. From top to bottom, the entire aircraft measured 10 stories high and reached an altitude of 10,000 feet. It flew for about an hour at dawn from a private airfield east of Los Angeles. Oh, and there were people (of the non-animated variety) aboard.”
“The floating feat sets a world record for the largest balloon cluster flight ever attempted, according to the National Geographic Channel. It filmed the flight as part of a new series called “How Hard Can It Be?” that’s set to debut in the fall.”
“And if you’re wondering how hard it can be to set a balloon-supported house aloft, well, ‘it was pretty hard,’ Paul Carson, the show’s host, notes in the behind-the-scenes video below. ‘It was very difficult actually.'”
Unfortunately, there is still a bit of magic behind this trick – the structure sent skyward was full scale, but not a fully-loaded home packed with insulation, sheet rock and the rest of those pesky (heavy) finishing touches. There is, however, another real-world equivalent – the stodgy old Seattle ‘nail home’ whose occupant refused to leave their residence, no matter what, and fought being demolished to the bitter end.