<p>Hot air balloons take flight as part of a festival near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Every October, the area hosts the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, where over <a href="http://www.balloonfiesta.com/uploads/2015%20FINAL%20AIBF%20Media%20Guide.pdf">550 balloons participate</a>.</p>

Multi-colored

Hot air balloons take flight as part of a festival near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Every October, the area hosts the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, where over 550 balloons participate.

Photograph by Ralph Lee Hopkins, Nat Geo Image Collection

Take Flight With 15 Uplifting Pictures of Hot Air Balloons

Hop in for one last ride in the basket as summer turns to fall.

A duck, a rooster, and a sheep hop into a hot air balloon.

This isn't the beginning of some corny joke. It's the passenger manifest of the first occupied balloon flight, made in September 1783.

Paper manufacturers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier, with the help of wallpaper maker Jean-Baptiste Réveillion, built the paper and cloth balloon that ferried its animal cargo about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) into the air before landing safely.

Their balloon was festooned with golden swirls, zodiac signs, and suns in honor of the King of France. (Read about real balloon animals.)

Today's rip-stop nylon hot air balloons are a far cry from the straw-burning-fire-powered contraptions of the 18th century. But they can be just as extravagantly decorated.

These 15 pictures show the huge variety of shapes, colors, and patterns that can take flight with a little hot air.

Follow Jane J. Lee on Twitter.

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