Many people tried to fly by jumping off something. They hoped that something would help them to fly like birds, bats or bees. Most of the time the person failed to fly or glide. They would usually fall and be injured (hurt). A few people would land safely giving false hope that a person might be able to fly alone.
The first person known to have tried a "parachute" jump was Arman Firman in 852 A.D. He thought his huge cloak would fill with air allowing him to float to the ground. He was wrong. He fell very fast and was injured (hurt).
Six hundred years later, Leonardo da Vinci drew the first plans for a parachute. He said it should be made out of cloth with no holes in it. He felt that a person could safely jump from any height with this parachute. Leonardo da Vinci never tried his idea.
Many more people tried to design or make a parachute. Some of them were Fausto Veranzo, Joseph Montgolfier, and Jean Pierre Blanchard. Each of these men said they jumped with some kind of parachute. There is no proof to show they really did. Finally in 1797, balloonist Andre Jacques Garnerin made the first of many exhibition (for show) parachute jumps from his balloon. His first jump was over Paris with thousands of people watching.
Garnerin's parachute was made of silk and looked like a large umbrella. His parachute had no openings in the top. This caused the parachute to swing violently back and forth. This was a fault in Leonardo da Vinci's design (drawing).
Modern parachutes have openings allowing the air to flow through. This helps the parachute stay steady.
Until the balloon and the airplane there was not much reason to use or have parachutes. Parachute jumping from a balloon before 1900 was usually for exhibition or show. After the Wright Brothers developed their airplane the idea of jumping out of an airplane to safety was born.
Why do we need a parachute? Objects (or a person) falling freely through the air are pulled toward the Earth by gravity. It can reach speeds of 118 miles per hour or more! No person could survive a fall at that speed. By using a parachute the fall is slowed to about 14 mph. This is slow enough for a safe landing.
What is a parachute? Today, parachutes that carry people are made of nylon. They are packed into a "duck pack" when not in use. A "rip cord" opens the pack to let the parachute out. Lines (shrouds) are attached through the seams of the parachute to a ring. The ring is on a harness (straps) attached to the person using the parachute. The harness protects the parachutist from harm when the chute opens.
During World War II parachutes were used in many different ways. To drop food, medical supplies, soldiers and equipment. Many of the soldiers who jumped during the war wanted to continue parachuting after the war.
After World War II the sport of parachuting began around the world. The
first world competition was in Yugoslavia in 1951. People jumped alone
and in groups. Today, more than 250,000 people parachute every year.
To find out more about parachuting check out some books at your library
or look on the Internet.
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