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11 Facts About the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons—And What It Takes To Inflate Them

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At its start in 1924 (when it celebrated Christmas!), the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade wasn't a high-flying event: It was organized by employees and featured animals from the Central Park Zoo. The balloons—which used to be filled with only air—made their debut in 1927; Felix the Cat was the first character balloon. Now, 85 years later, the inflation of the balloons is an event itself. The parade closes off the streets next to the American Museum of Natural History, pins down its balloons, begins to inflate them, and invites the public to watch. We were there—and here are some of the things we learned.

1. For 43 years, the balloons were designed and made in a former Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken, New Jersey. Last year, the Macy's Design Studio moved to a new 72,000 square foot studio in nearby Moonachie.

2. There will be 56 balloons in the parade this year: 16 giant character balloons and 40 novelty balloons.

3. The characters flying for the first time this year are Hello Kitty, Elf on the Shelf, Papa Smurf, and Companion by KAWS. Here's what they look like on the ground:


Hello Kitty


Papa Smurf


Companion by KAWS


Elf on the Shelf

4. The balloons used to be made of rubber; now they're made of polyurethane fabric.

5. The balloons are filled with a mixture of helium and air. The highest point of a balloon requires 100 percent helium, while something like a smile or a button needs only air.

6. It takes 90 minutes to inflate a giant balloon.

7. The average life of a balloon is eight years. This Kermit has been flying since 2002. He's 78 feet long, 61 feet high, and 36 feet wide.

8. On average, balloons are filled with 12,000 cubic feet of helium—that's enough to lift 746 pounds!

9. Balloons under nets are finished being inflated; the ones not under nets are still inflating. When those balloons are done, they'll be moved under a net.

10. SpongeBob SquarePants took its first flight in 2004, the year The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie came out.

11. The Aflac Duck, which debuted last year, is a "balloonicle." It combines a cold-air balloon and self-propelled vehicle.

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Animals
Watch a Rogue Pet Dog Interrupt a Russian News Anchor on Air
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Last week, a Russian news broadcast briefly went to the dogs after its host was startled by a surprise co-anchor: a friendly black canine that wandered on set, announced its presence with a loud bark, and climbed onto her desk.

 

As TODAY reports, Mir24 TV anchor Ilona Linarte went off script for a few minutes, telling viewers "I've got a dog here. What is this dog doing in the studio?" After the initial shock wore off, she gave her furry guest a tepid welcome, patting its head as she gently pushed it off the desk. ("I actually prefer cats,'' Linarte remarked. "I'm a cat lady.")

Linarte’s query was answered when the TV station announced that the dog had accompanied another show’s guest on set, and somehow got loose. That said, rogue animals have a proud tradition of crashing live news broadcasts around the world, so we’re assuming this won’t be the last time a news anchor is upstaged by an adorable guest star (some of which have better hair than them).

[h/t TODAY]

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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0
SpaceX Is Sending Two Private Citizens Around the Moon
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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

Two members of the public are set to take an historic trip around the Moon, according to an announcement from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. As The Verge reports, the anonymous private citizens have already placed substantial deposits on the commercial space flight.

The private spacecraft company SpaceX revealed on Monday that the Falcon Heavy rocket will be launching with its Crew Dragon spacecraft in late 2018. The mission will consist of a circumnavigation of the Moon, passing over the body’s surface before traveling farther into space and returning to Earth. In total, the trip will cover 300,000 to 400,000 miles and take a week to complete.

A noteworthy part of the plan is the human cargo that will be on board. Instead of professional astronauts, the craft will carry two paying customers into space. The passengers, who’ve yet to be named, will both need to pass several fitness tests before they're permitted to make the journey. According to The Verge, Musk said the customers are “very serious” and that the cost of the trip is “comparable” to that of a crewed mission to the International Space Station. The goal for SpaceX is to eventually send one or two commercial flights into space each year, which could account for 10 to 20 percent of the company’s earnings.

[h/t The Verge]

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