This week you get a pair of images from the Albuquerque Balloon Museum — they’re of the gondola of Strato-Lab IV, part of a series of manned stratospheric balloons launched by the U. S. Navy in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. You don’t seem to hear much about the Strato-Lab missions, but they played a big part in getting the U.S. ready to step into space.
Here’s the side of the gondola away from the hatch:
And here’s the side with the hatch:
The Strato-Lab IV flight took place on November 28-29, 1959, flying Commander Malcom Ross and Charles Moore to an altitude of 81,000 feet. This flight carried a 16-inch telescope so that Moore could observe Venus. As you can see, the gondola shows some signs of wear and tear — this particular flight ended with it being drug across a field by its parachutes, putting some significant dents into it in the process.
If you’d like more details on the Strato-Lab program, there’s a really good writeup on the series of flights here.