One hundred and fifty years ago today, a French engineer named Henri Giffard inflated a one hundred and forty four foot long ballon, specially constructed for forward motion, strapped a four hundred pound steam engine to the bottom of it and lifted off from the Hippodrome in Paris.

The triple bladed propellar pushed Giffard from the heart of Paris to the outlying town of Trappes, a distance of seventeen miles, making this the first successful flight of a steam driven balloon. Giffard dubbed his invention the dirigible, and while this first iteration wasn’t strong enough to turn around and push against the head wind from Paris, it did change the way the world viewed air travel. Devices built on Giffard’s ideas are still in use to this day, and the airship is permanently imbedded in the collective consciousness of the world.

Henri Giffard killed himself in 1882 in response to his failing eyesight. He didn’t want to live if he wasn’t able to work anymore, or to see the world that his inventions had shaped.

Here’s to that daring man and his flying machine.