NATIONAL SCIENTIFIC BALLOON FACILITY
NATIONAL SCIENTIFIC BALLOON FACILITY. The National Scientific Balloon Facility occupies more than 400 acres on Farm Road 3224 just off U.S. Highway 287, five miles west of Palestine, Texas. It was established in 1961 in Boulder, Colorado, by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and was moved in 1963 to Palestine. It was the first permanent facility devoted exclusively to scientific ballooning. Since its inception there has been a continuing effort to expand the facility and make the unique qualities of balloons for scientific research more readily available to scientists. In addition to scientific experiments, many flights designed to contribute improvements to balloon technology have been made. The facility is open, within practical limits, to all scientists with balloon-borne experiments to fly. In many cases the facility has provided scientists with a variety of technical assistance and field services, thus sparing them the burden of becoming experts in balloon technology.
The balloon flight station has provided experienced private contractor personnel, under close National Center for Atmospheric Research supervision. In 1973 a new, larger launch area was built. The principal financial support for the facility came from the National Science Foundation until 1982, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration took over that role and the balloon station came under the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. On October 1, 1987, NASA awarded the New Mexico State University Physical Science Laboratory the contract to operate the station. The facility has been responsible for over 1,700 balloon launches for thirty-five universities, thirty-three foreign groups, and twenty-three other research agencies. The National Scientific Balloon Facility continues in high-altitude research ballooning at Palestine and at several remote sites in the United States and other countries.
Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Palestine, Texas).