The parachute resists the movement of air past them, acting as a sort of brake. This results in a soft landing. The person feels no more shock than if he had jumped down from a 3 metre high wall.
Long before the invention of planes, people tried to jump off heights using different devices for safe landing. Leonardo da Vinci, the famous Indian painter, sculptor, and scientist, sketched a parachute design way back in 1514. Later in 1595, Fausto Veranzio published a description of a workable parachute. In 1785, a Frenchman, J.P. Blanchard used a parachute to drop a dog from a hot-air balloon high in the sky.
The first man to use a parachute was Andre-Jacques Garnerin in 1797. he made his first successful jump in Paris when he jumped off from a hot-air balloon from a height of 670 m. he had made a umbrella shaped parachute of white canvas, which had a diameter of 7m. He landed safely leading the way for future parachutists.
The design of the parachute went through different processes. It was not till 1912 that the first successful descent in a parachute was made from an airplane. The descent was made by Capt. Albert Berry from a height of 457 m over Missouri, USA. The following years saw a lot of discussions on the safety of parachutists jumping off planes. It was not considered safe, as it was feared the pilot would not be able to clear the plane and escape without entangling the parachute.
Modern parachutes are variously shaped, often small and rectangular. They are designed to enable the parachutist to exercise considerable control of direction as in skydiving. Parachutes are folded into a pack. When require it is released by a rip-cord or some similar device. It consists of about two dozen panels of nylon in a circular or rectangular canopy with shroud lines to a harness. Earlier silk was used in place of nylon.
Today parachutes are used for various purposes. During World War II parachute troops proved vitally important. Parachutes are used for dropping supplies to areas far from roads or rivers or during floods. They are used for sports like skydiving. They are sometimes used to aid in braking the landing of a plane or missile. Huge parachutes are employed to slow down the space Shuttle as it lands.
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