Collection ID:
Simons, Vera
bulk 1960s-1980s
Physical Description:
23.5 Cubic feet
(22 boxes)

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of approximately 23 cubic feet of material relating to Vera Simons' ballooning and art careers. Types of materials include: newspaper articles, flight covers, photographs, slides, audio recordings, and reports relating to Simons' time with Winzen Research, inc. and her "Da Vinci" and "Aerolus" projects.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Vera Simons (1920-2012) played an important role in balloon development and exploration. Born in Germany, she grew up in Detroit, Michigan and married Otto Winzen; together they created Winzen Research Inc., one of world's first plastic balloon companies. Simons held over two-thirds ownership of the company and became its vice president. She supervised and trained her "balloon girls" to handle polyethylene and build the giant balloons, and obtained four patents for her work improving construction techniques and envelope redesign. During the 1950s and 1960s, Winzen created balloons for the United States Navy Projects Helios, Skyhook and Strato-Lab and for the United Sates Air Force Project Manhigh, and Simons was a central figure in planning and executing those manned research flights. Simons earned her gas balloon license in 1957 and she represented the United States at the 30th Annual International Gas Balloon Races in Holland where she received a gold medal for her contributions to balloon research. When Simons divorced Otto Winzen, she sold her interest in Winzen Research and enrolled in art school. By the early 1970s she had made a name for herself in international art circles by combining art and ballooning. In 1972, Simons began planning a series of balloon flights called "DaVinci" that combined science with original kinetic art. She spent two years designing and supervising the construction of a two-decker fiberglass gondola and an 11 story tall polyethylene balloon in which she eventually set a new overland distance record in the U.S. in 1979. During the same flight, Simons dropped tiny tetrahedron balloons carrying Douglas Fir seedlings into cleared areas, took time-lapse photographs, made sound recordings, and used mirrors to create special lighting effects in the clouds for the spectators on the ground. During other "DaVinci" flights, Simons collected temperature and airflow data, and tracked the mix and movement of urban air pollutants, while also photographing landscape and cloud images that she later used in producing works of art. In 1984 Simons launched another flight, "Project Aerolus," in which three plastic balloons were launched simultaneously into the nighttime sky; one of the balloons was piloted by Joe Kittinger.

Immediate Source of Acquisition
Don Crowell, Gift, 2015

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
No restrictions on access.
Preferred Citation
Vera Simons Papers, Accession 2016-0013, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Balloons Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kinetic art Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
philately Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Newspaper clippings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Press releases Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Color slides Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reports Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151