At 106 feet tall, Cosmos I can be seen far and wide. (NASA / April Lanotte) › View Larger Image
Cosmos 1 Balloon: Combines ingenuity, inspiration
For Jerry and Cindy Holmes, their love of NASA’s work and ballooning came together in March when they purchased the new Cosmos I hot air balloon.
"We love NASA. It represents American ingenuity," Jerry said.
The couple shares another goal with NASA – to inspire kids.
"We hope that Cosmos will encourage students to embrace math and science," Cindy said.
At 106 feet tall and 486 pounds, Cosmos I is a whole lot of inspiration – people can’t help but look up to it as they did recently at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M. Cosmo’s spacesuit has a helmet, gloves, boots and all of his needs for the journey.
In addition to the balloon that looks like an astronaut, the couple’s crew often includes Liz Bauer, who works at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
This was the first balloon fiesta for the newly made, special-shape hot air balloon. A drawing of Cosmos I was presented at the 2011 fiesta and the couple jumped on the opportunity to own the unique special-shape balloon.
Jerry works as a street light technician for the city of Ft. Worth, Texas, but he and Cindy lit up the balloon fiesta skies over Albuquerque with Cosmos I.
So how does someone become involved with hot air balloons? For Jerry, it began more than 24 years ago when he saw one in the Texas skies and thought it looked like fun.
"I purchased a ride and it took eight attempts to finally get the right winds because Cindy was scared and the pilot knew it. He waited for that perfect day. But until that day he said, 'Why don’t you come out and start crewing for me?' I did and then we had our flight and I kept crewing. A year later, we purchased a balloon," he said.
Cindy wasn’t happy about the new ownership at first.
"She was not a happy camper. Once I got my license, logged some hours and we started going to festivals she realized, 'Hey, this is fun.'" Jerry said.
Cindy, who describes herself as "not a morning person," had a change of heart.
"I didn’t know it was legal to have so much fun," she said of ballooning.
"You meet so many different people and you become good friends and some of those friends are now like family," Jerry added.
Although he enjoys piloting the balloon, he is very careful to ensure everyone’s safety.
"As a pilot you want passengers to have fun. For me, it’s always been the freedom of flight. It’s carefree, but you have to stay on top of it and fly the balloon," Jerry said.
Cindy explains the ride as "peaceful, beautiful."
The balloon fiesta is over for this year, but the legend of Cosmos I is just beginning.
Jay Levine, editor, the X-Press
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center