Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

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Balloonists

This section focuses on U.S. Navy Balloonist Commander Malcom D. Ross, USNR, whose pioneering ballooning advanced mankind's eventual journey into space.  In 1954, Ross initiated the Project Strato-Lab program, which utilized high-altitudes for upper atmosphere research.   Along with fellow U.S. Navy balloonist, Lieutenant Commander Victor A. Prather, MC, USN, on May 4, 1961, they journeyed 113, 740 feet into the stratosphere to test the Navy's Mark IV full-pressure suit.  Successfully surviving the journey, NASA selected a modified version of suit for the Project Mercury program.   Despite never flying in balloons again after that mission, Ross continued to advocate balloon use.  He retired as a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve in July 1973 and died in October 1985.   Ross is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.