At Rapid City Public Library Downtown
Stratobowl Historic Photo Exhibit
In the mid 1930s, the Stratobowl was home to a series of balloon launches conducting scientific experiments, cofounded by the National Geographic Society & the Army Air Corps. The site was chosen because it was a natural shelter from surface winds, the region had a history of good flying weather in the summer, & it was far enough west that the balloon could drift many miles eastward unencumbered by water.
A crowd of nearly 50,000 spectators witnessed the launch of Explorer on July 28th, 1934. While initially successful, Explorer I suffered a rip in the balloon & the crew was forced to parachute to safety while the gondola crash landed in Nebraska. A second launch was planned for July 12, 1935 but the balloon collapsed upon inflation.
Explorer II was finally launched November 11, 1935. The crew set an altitude record of 74,000 feet above Earth, & successfully landed 230 miles east near White Lake, South Dakota.