7-Eleven Balloon Discovery Center
How do balloons fly? How are they designed? How does the weather affect them? What’s the difference between a sport balloon and a gas balloon?
If you’ve ever wondered any of these things, then the Balloon Discovery Center is the place to come.
Each year at Balloon Fiesta® balloon enthusiasts can get hands-on experience to learn about the sport and science of ballooning, and a behind-the-scenes look at Balloon Fiesta event operations. 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. Twice-daily speakers bring insight into the choreography of the event. And an Arts & Crafts area tickles the imagination of youngsters about the beauty of balloons.
These are just a few of the exhibits you’ll find inside the BDC.
PARTS OF A BALLOON
How is a balloon made and constructed? If you don’t know the parts of the balloon, this is the perfect exhibit. Press the button by the name of a component, and a light by a picture of the component will light up. Larger-than-life graphics highlight the critical components for each balloon to safely take flight and return to earth.
What makes Albuquerque the Balloon Capital of the world? The Albuquerque Box and it’s unique weather and wind patterns make our city unlike any other – and perfect for flying balloons. This display shows how the “box effect” sits over Balloon Fiesta Park and surrounding areas. Press the button and see the balloons in action.
Some aspects of ballooning remains low-tech, and the basket – or gondola – is one of them. Most gondolas are made from wicker, to minimize the additional weight that the balloon must lift. This exhibit allows you to try your hand at weaving large-radius rattan into a gondola. When the wicker is soaked in water, it becomes pliable. It is woven in a pattern in and out of the vertical supports. As it dries it becomes rigid.
Weather conditions are critical in determining if a balloon can fly. The Weather Station is a working weather station used by our meteorologists to actually determine if balloons will fly or not.
How much do you think you know about ballooning? Let’s test your knowledge with quiz tables. If your answer is correct, a light will come on!
At 10 a.m. each day, and at 4:00 p.m. on the days with evening sessions, come listen to a behind-the scenes presentation by some of Balloon Fiesta’s key people. Speakers include special shapes pilots, gas balloon pilots, sport pilots, launch directors, the balloonmeister or assistant balloonmeister, crew, officials, weather pros, and more. Bring your questions and get ready to learn all about this fascinating sport!
Visit the Balloon Discovery Center at Balloon Fiesta Park!
Admission is free once inside Balloon Fiesta gates.
NASA at the BDC
Come learn about NASA! At an event featuring hot air balloons, NASA 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., Armstrong 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, Armstrong 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.