PIERRE, S.D. – In the 1930’s, the Stratosphere Bowl was selected as a launching location for two helium-filled balloons. The first balloon launch, known as Explorer I, was in 1934. The second and more successful launch with Explorer II occurred in 1935.
Explorer II launched from the Stratosphere Bowl on Nov. 11, 1935. It set a world record after traveling to an altitude of 72,395 feet – the highest elevation ever reached by man at that time. The balloon remained in the air for 8 hours and 13 minutes collecting data. Upon its landing near White Lake, S.D., Explorer II had gathered valuable information regarding high-altitude photography, cosmic ray and atmospheric conditions.
The Stratosphere Bowl was chosen as a launch location because of its natural terrain, favorable weather, altitude and depth. These factors combined to make it the perfect, protected launch spot. The Bowl is located 1.5 miles east of Rockerville, S.D., just off Highway 16.
The Marks of History series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism, designed to highlight historical markers all across South Dakota. Click on the special "Marks of History" link at