First Flight

December 17, 2003


Provided by: GLOBE at Night
Summary author: Jim Foster

On this date, 100 years ago in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Brothers broke free from the surly bonds of the Earth. No longer slaves to gravity, humans would soon be able to do what they previously could only dream about. Though many others paved the way, Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first off the ground -- using a gas-powered four-cylinder engine to achieve flight.

The photo above is regarded as possibly the most reproduced photograph ever. Although their initial flight only lasted about 12 seconds and carried Orville about 120 ft (36.5 m), this was the first controlled, sustained flight in a heavier-than-air device. The brothers flew three more times on this day, with Wilbur's final flight taking him 852 ft (260 m) in 59 seconds. In terms of science and engineering, this was without question one of the greatest days in the 20th century. [Revised December 2017]

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