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1960s Operation Hi-Ball

Professor emeritus Richard Zakia (photography) provided these photos of an event that occurred around 1960, in the early days of space flight. “A group of enterprising photo students planned their own launch into near space using a large helium-filled balloon with a suspended, remote-controlled camera.”

Zakia recalls that the event drew a great deal of attention. Winnie Vaughn was named “Miss Hi-Ball,” pictured here with George Pittman ’64, co-captain of Operation Hi-Ball.

“The balloon got off the ground and up in the air successfully as the crowds cheered,” says Zakia, “but soon it made an unscheduled landing atop of the church at the corner of Spring Street and Plymouth Avenue.”

This problem was compounded because the balloon carried an explosive detonator intended to collapse the balloon in case of emergency. Eventually, with police diverting rush-hour traffic, firemen were able to extricate the balloon.

If you have additional information about this event, we’d love to share it with readers. Write to Kathy Lindsley, University News Services, Rochester Institute of Technology, 132 Lomb Memorial Drive – Bldg. 86, Rochester, NY 14623. E-mail can be sent to