A French aeronaut, Jean Pierre Blanchard, claimed the invention of the parachute in 1785, and the first successful parachute descent from a great height was made in 1797 by the French aeronaut Jacques Garnerin, who dropped 3,000 ft (920 m) from a balloon. Parachutes began as an escape system for persons aboard balloons or aircraft unable to land safely. Modern military jet aircraft are provided with ejection seats that shoot occupants free of their craft and automatically release a parachute when they are at a safe altitude. In addition, since World War II parachutes have been used by the military for airborne operations and emergency resupply. Skydiving and the more dangerous swooping (canopy piloting) and BASE jumping are forms of sport parachuting. Parachutes are also used as braking devices for rockets, space vehicles, airplanes, and high-speed surface vehicles.
See study by B. Sellick (1981).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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