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7-Eleven Balloon Discovery Center

How do balloons fly? Balloons operate through the basic principles of gravity and hot air rising. As air inside the balloon is heated, it rises. As the air inside the balloon cools, it descends. To inflate the balloon... read more ...

Each year at Balloon Fiesta® balloon enthusiasts can get hands-on experience at the Balloon Discovery Center. Located at the north end of Balloon Fiesta Park, the Balloon Discovery Center draws more than 30,000 visitors of all ages each year.

Interactive exhibits illustrate the principles of lighter-than-air flight, the history of the sport, and safety aspects of ballooning. A hot air balloon exhibit has a basket in which kids can "burn" the burners and simulate a balloon flight. Another exhibit demonstrates the "Albuquerque Box" effect.

The theater area features speakers from all aspects of ballooning, story time, puppet shows, videos about ballooning, and tissue paper balloon classes where you can build your own hot air balloon.

Visit the Balloon Discovery Center at Balloon Fiesta Park! It is open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.during morning events and from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. during evening events. Visiting the Center is free with admission to the Balloon Fiesta.

When attendees of the AlbuquerqueInternational Balloon Fiesta, being held Oct. 5-13 in Albuquerque, N.M., visit the Discovery Center, they will have an opportunity to learn about NASA aeronautics work. In fact, at an event featuring hot air balloons, NASA appropriately will display an F/A-18 half-scale blow-up model at the entrance to the agency’s exhibit. NASA uses the high-performance F/A-18s for flight research and for flying alongside research aircraft to document the flight, during which a photographer or videographer might also take footage that adds to researchers’ flight information. Though most are aware of the agency’s space mission, fewer are familiar with NASA aeronautics research conducted at four centers across the nation: Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

NASA aeronautics, with its history of bringing key technologies to all aspects of aviation, is looking to do so again with the latest “green aviation” initiative, through which NASA will test and integrate technologies designed to reduce aircraft noise and emissions, maximize fuel usage and improve air-traffic management. New to the NASA exhibit in Albuquerque this year is a hybrid-wing body aircraft model that illustrates ideas on how green aviation concepts might be realized. “We are excited to again have a lead role in the aeronautics exhibit in the Discovery Center at the Balloon Fiesta and help them celebrate 40 years of the fiesta,” said Mary Ann Harness, Dryden public outreach specialist and exhibit coordinator. “There is a lot to see at our exhibit, including our green aviation display that shows we are looking for ways to make Earth a better place while continuing to fly airplanes. We also have a lot of hands-on activities and games for people of all ages to have fun and learn about what NASA aeronautics does.” Balloon Fiesta attendees can learn about the history of NASA aeronautics in several displays, including a timeline of aviation achievements, but also through experiencing some of it personally. An F-15 cockpit simulator, for example, gives visitors the chance to picture themselves in the pilot’s seat, lifting off the runways at Edwards.

The NASA exhibit also is scheduled to include daily presentations by former Dryden aerospace engineering technician Jim Sokolik, a space shuttle tire flown on the orbiter Discovery and kiosks that show how aeronautics can be fun and games. During daily hands-on life support demonstrations and longer presentations at Albuquerque-area school, Sokolik will demonstrate a high-altitude pressure suit used in the Mach 3 SR-71 program. Sokolik will offer participants a taste of astronaut food, which is also eaten by pilots of high-altitude aircraft on long missions. The shuttle tire on display is from Discovery’s 12-day STS-116 mission in December 2006. On that mission, astronauts delivered and attached the International Space Station’s third port truss, performed major rewiring of the station’s power system and delivered new ISS personnel.

Visitors to the NASA exhibit also can wait their turn at a cost-free photo kiosk, where they can be photographed on either the moon or Mars. Another kiosk will feature a NASA aeronautics memory game with information about key NASA aircraft in history or a virtual airport, where visitors zoom in to see how NASA technologies have found their way to use on military, commercial and general aviation aircraft and helicopters. Attendees also will have an opportunity to learn about wind tunnels used for research on different aircraft shapes or the aerodynamics of various aircraft parts. A model of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, aircraft will be on display. The SOFIA, a modified NASA 747SP with the world’s largest airborne infrared telescope installed in the rear fuselage, will deploy to locations around the world. The high-tech German-built telescope has begun science missions that scan the heavens at altitudes above the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere that obscures ground-based infrared telescopes.

Many people are familiar with visible-light images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The SOFIA display will introduce visitors to the infrared spectrum by allowing them to see themselves on a monitor through the lens of an infrared camera.

Balloon Fiesta attendees will see dynamic panorama views of hot air and gas balloons from around the world on the field and in the sky. But they also will have opportunities for interesting experiences while learning about the latest technologies and test bed aircraft being developed by NASA to advance aeronautics and reveal more about planet Earth and its environment.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is working to enhance your youth group experience at this year’s Balloon Fiesta. You may now pre-register your group to attend an event and include a craft project at the Balloon Discovery Center.

If interested in sponsorship opportunities, please visit our Sponsor section.

Balloon Fiesta Park
(For GPS planning only)
5000 Balloon Fiesta Pkwy NE

Mailing address
4401 Alameda NE
Albuquerque, NM 87113

Local: (505) 821-1000

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