Not to be upstaged by the balloonist Jacques Alexandre César Charles, who launched the first hydrogen balloon in on August 1783, the brothers Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier sent a sheep, a duck, and a rooster aloft in a wicker cage dangling beneath a hot air balloon. The flight took place on September 19, 1783, before an enormous crowd, including the Royal family, gathered in front of the royal Palace of Versailles. Queen Marie Antoinette is said to have been driven away from the launch site by the stench and smoke created by wet straw and damp organic material which the Montgolfiers burned to inflate their balloon.
Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier (1754 – 1785), employed as the keeper of a cabinet of philosophical instruments for a wealthy patron, is reputed to have been the first person to reach the Versailles balloon when it landed. He then launched a successful campaign for the honor of being the first human being to make a free flight. On November 21, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launched de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes on the first free flight from the Chateau de la Muette, Paris. Like earlier ballooning events, these were well documented in prints, art, and household objects.
Continuing his ongoing competition with the Montgolfier brothers, Jacques Alexandre César Charles, who launched the first gas balloon, made his own attempt at free flight. On December 1, 1783, J. A. C. Charles and companion M. N. Robert made the first free flight in a gas balloon, from the Tuileries, Paris. Two hours after take-off, Charles and Robert landed safely in the village of Nesles-la-Vallée, 35 kilometers (21 miles) northwest of Paris. Upon their safe landing, Charles had Robert exit the balloon so that he could reascend alone and become the first man to make a solo free flight.