Early study and early exploration of the upper atmosphere

Pages 31 and 32 in the ClassNotes list some of the significant events in the early study and exploration of the atmosphere.  A few of them are included below.

Once you realize that air has weight you can design an instrument to measure pressure.  The mercury barometer was invented in 1643.  Also once you understand that pressure depends on the weight of the air overhead it is a fairly easy step to figure out that pressure should decrease with increasing altitude.  This idea was verified in 1648 by carrying a barometer to the summit of a mountain.

The earliest balloon trips into the upper atmosphere were in unheated and unpressurized gondolas.  Climbers have made it to the summit of Mt. Everest without carrying supplementary oxygen but it is difficult and requires acclimation.  You can't acclimate to conditions above 25,000 ft and can't remain up there very long - it's referred to as the "death zone."  (Read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer if you'd like to get some idea of what it's like trying to climb Mt. Everest)

Balloon travel into the stratosphere

Interest in exploring the upper atmosphere began again in the 1920s and would culminate in successful trips up into the stratosphere.

Note the amount of clothing that Capt. Grey had to wear to try to stay warm. 

Auguste Piccard was part of a two man team to first travel into the stratosphere and return alive.

 Source of the image below

I believe this is the gondola flown into the stratosphere by Auguste Piccard and Paul Kipfer is shown above (source).  The figure caption is in German so I am not sure that is the case.

Auguste Piccard is shown in the figure at left.  The sealed and pressurized gondola he took into the stratosphere is shown at right.  Note how one side is black and the other white.  By turning the gondola they could control the temperature inside (pointing the black side toward the sun would warm the gondola, turning the white side would allow the gondola to cool off).  On their first trip the mechanism that would release gas from the balloon and allow them to descend malfunctioned.  They began to run low on oxygen and for a time it looked like they would become "stuck" in the stratosphere and die.  As the sun set however the gas in the balloon began to cool and become denser.  The balloon began to sink and they landed on a glacier in the Alps.

You might have heard about Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos balloon (or seen the GoPro commercial during a recent Super Bowl).  On Oct. 14, 2012 he reached an altitude of nearly 128,000 feet (39 km or 24 miles) and then jumped!  He reached a speed of 843 MPH on the way down (Mach 1.25 or 1.25 times the speed of sound). 

Here's a short video (1:25) summary of the flight and jump.  If you have time you should really watch the longer version (9:32).  Baumgartner began to spin during the descent but was able get out of it.  He came very close to blacking out.

Jacques and Bertrand Piccard

The Piccards are really quite an adventurous family. 
Jacques Piccard, Auguste's son, would later travel with Lt. Don Walsh of the US Navy to a depth of about 35,800 feet in the ocean in the Mariana Trench (Auguste participated in some of the test descents to 10,000 ft).  They did that in the Bathyscaph Trieste (shown below) on Jan. 23, 1960 (source of the image).  I'll try to show a short video of one of their test dives (to 10,000 ft.)

Here's a National Geographic video describing film director James Cameron's much more recent solo dive to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench on Mar. 12, 2012 (2:16).  (note mention of the 16,000 psi pressure on the submersible at the bottom of the ocean)

Bertrand Piccard, Jacques' son (Auguste's grandson) was part of the first two man team to circle the globe non-stop in the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon (Mar. 20, 1999).  Brian Jones was the second team member (source of the left image above, source of the right image)I've got a pretty good video summary of their trip.  Here are three online videos of the event: short summary (1:40) and a full documentary (54:06).

Bertrand Piccard together with co-pilot Andre Borschberg were part of a project that would attempt to fly a long-range, solar-powered aircraft (the Solar Impulse) around the world. 

A photograph of Solar Impulse 1 (source of the photo)

Here's a Wikipedia article about the project and the flight. 
The attempt began in March 2015 at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.  During the leg from Japan to Hawaii, the longest of the journey, the batteries were damaged and several months of repair were needed.  The Solar Impulse completed its trip by returning to Abu Dhabi on July 26, 2016.  The around-the-world trip included a stop in Pheonix.