Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

“Will my balloon fly all the way to the moon?”

Dozens of balloons against a dark blue sky.

A balloon race in Fetcham shortly after the balloons were released. (Image by Helen Warren, via Wikipedia)

My daughter knows the name and precise location of every restaurant within 25 miles that gives out balloons to patrons under 8 and will invariably announce that she is starving whenever we happen to drive by one of them.

“Mommyo, can we go to [Restaurant B]?” she asked me one fine morning while licking the purple remnants of freeze-dried blueberries off her sticky paws. When I turned her down, pointing out that it was a little after 10 a.m. and she had just eaten about 12 pints of berries so couldn’t possibly be hungry, she said, “YOU could eat, Mommyo. I’ll just get a balloon.”

On the odd occasion when everyone in the family actually does wants to eat at a balloon-producing restaurant, she will refuse to have the balloon tied around her wrist. “I’ll just hold it.”

Given this history, I’m certain it will come as no surprise that even at the tender age of four, my daughter has already suffered multiple balloon tragedies. The first time she saw her brand new St. Patrick’s Day balloon float away above the skyline of our little town, she thought it was pretty awesome right up until the moment she realized it wasn’t coming back down.

When she had recovered enough to ask questions, she said, “Will my balloon fly all the way to the moon?”

The best I could do was a “Probably not.”

My daughter was in no mood for uncertainty. “Ask the iPhone, Mommyo.”

So I did. Or rather my husband did, as I was driving. He found Balloon HQ fairly quickly, a website developed by a group of balloon artists who have vowed to provide “everything you ever wanted to know about latex and foil balloons for parties and entertainment.

After scrolling for quite a while past an impressive material science-laced explanation of how (and why) static electricity is lethal to balloon installations (complete with graphs!), my husband found a few relatively clear sentences that spoke directly to our situation. Based on them, he reported that our daughter’s helium balloon would burst at an altitude of between 28,000 – 30,000 feet, far short of its goal of reaching the moon (which, in case you were wondering, is some 238,854 miles away).

How long will it take a balloon to pop after it’s been released into the sky?

Balloons rise at 17.5 feet/sec (which explains why I can never catch them once they are released into the wild). So my daughter’s balloon would reach its bursting altitude in about 26 minutes after slipping free of her four-year-old hands.

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