Humans have been finding ways to get around for thousands of years. Some methods of transportation, like the hot air balloon, are just for fun, while others, like the car, are more popular than ever. This isn't the complete history of transportation, of course, but here you'll learn the many ways that man has traveled on land, air and sea.
While the Wright brothers are thought to be "first in flight" in 1903, they merely created the first successful aircraft. There are many types of airplanes, from civilian to military. The one most people use to travel is a jet aircraft, powered by two "turbine," or jet engines. The first jet aircraft as we know it was first flown in Germany in 1939.
Bicycles were first invented in Europe in the 19th century. Now these people-powered machines number 1 billion all over the world. That's one bike for every six people! It's a fun, healthy way to get around, and the basic design hasn't changed in 200 years.
The first bus system originated in France in 1826. New York caught on to the idea in 1829. The bus gets its name from a shortening of the Latin word "omnibus," which means "for everybody." A great example are the famous red double-decker busses in England.
The first successful "internal combustion engine" was built by Karl Benz in 1885. Modern car engines still work like this, using an explosion of gas to move the engine, which moves the wheels. America's first car was Henry Ford's Model T, invented in 1908. It "put America on wheels," making vehicles more affordable than ever. Since then, car numbers have soared to 539 million worldwide.
Carts pulled by animals or humans have been mentioned in writing since 2000 BC. They're still used worldwide. In American history, carts were important for pioneers heading out west in covered wagons, or carts with a canvas top. The classic computer game Oregon Trail demonstrates how pioneers used their wagons.
Ferries carry passengers and their cars back and forth on a regular schedule. Operating a ferry system is cheaper than building bridges, and you'll find them in places like Seattle, San Francisco, New York and the Great Lakes areas. The longest distance traveled by ferry is across the English Channel, connecting Calais, France to Dover, England.
A rotor and blades lift a helicopter straight up and make it hover in the air at one point for a long time. A relatively new technology, the first successful helicopter was mass-produced in 1942. Today's helicopters are used in the army, by news and weather stations and the police, but some tourists fly high above scenic locations like the Grand Canyon and Hawaii.
Hot air rises is the principle behind the hot air balloon, which uses a nylon, flame-resistant balloon to catch hot air coming from a fire below it. Invented in 1783 in France, the hot air balloon was man's first flight. It's especially good at climbing to high altitudes. A hot air balloon once flew 69,852 feet up in the air, almost 57,000 feet past the level of usable oxygen in our atmosphere.
While motorcycles are seen as dangerous and rebellious in America, in many parts of the world motorcycles are a cheap, efficient and easy way to get around. Motorcycles are more dangerous to ride in than cars, especially on roads with other vehicles, and they require a special license, but some people swear they're a lot more fun.
A tram, or streetcar, is a public transportation system that runs on rails and carries people around town. Modern trams and trolleys coast on wheels and use power lines above them to run. For a very classic historical example of a streetcar, imagine the cable cars riding up and down the hills of San Francisco.