tomás saraceno — winner of THE DESIGN PRIZE 2019 for the category in the artistic realm — has set 32 world records with ‘aerocene pacha.’ the work comprises a fuel-free hot air balloon which lifts riders into the sky, and lands safely back on earth using only sunlight and the air we all breathe. recognized by the fédération aeronautique internationale (FAI), the world records were set with aerocene pilot leticia noemi marques, who flew carrying the message ‘water and life are worth more than lithium’ written by the argentinian communities of salinas grandes, jujuy.


the event marks the most sustainable flight in human history, and one of the most important experiments in the history of aviation — see the records here!

tomás saraceno aerocene
image courtesy of tomás saraceno



the record-setting flight on tomás saraceno‘s lighter-than-air aerocene pacha was made in the salinas grandes salt plain region of argentina. the solar balloon, piloted by leticia noemi marques, flew to a height of 272 meters (893 feet) above the ground lifted using only the heat of the sun and the air, and traveled a distance of 668 meters (2,190 feet). the great salt plain itself is located at an altitude of 3,400 meters (11,155 feet) above sea level.


leticia noemi marques’ flight in tomás saraceno’s aerocene pacha has earned 32 spots in the book of world records. these records, all gained within the short time frame of only 16 minutes, mark the inaugural entries into both female and general categories for ballooning in the FAI sub-class of at: ‘a free balloon which obtains its buoyancy as a result of heating air using solar and/or external radiation sources only.‘ 

tomás saraceno's clean, solar-powered aerocene balloon sets 32 world records
image courtesy of tomás saraceno, who shared a message of hope during coronavirus lockdown in april 2020



the aerocene pacha balloon is made from a hybrid SKYTEX fabric and weighs 190 pounds (86 kilograms). despite its lightness, it can carry up to 522 pounds (237 kilograms)! the clean vessel operated without any fuel or electric source — it is even inflated with a pedal powered fan system. the aerocene balloon transforms solar radiation into heat with its dark colored membrane. the flight was further aided by its location at salinas grandes, where the white salt flats covering the region reflected light upward from below.


see also the designboom initiative: artists share a message of hope during last year’s coronavirus lockdown.

tomás saraceno shares the film trailer to a one-time online screening of ‘fly with aerocene pacha’ — a fully-solar human flight that took place in salinas grandes, argentina. ‘I believe one of the strongest messages of hope to share with designboom readers today is a vision of a better tomorrow,’ saraceno tells designboom. ‘a tomorrow free from fossil fuels, lithium, gas. it’s a message of hope that I have been working to refine for over 20 years now, and a message that people around the world can come together and experience from their own homes.




initiated in 2017 and curated by designboom, with patronage by the milan city council, THE DESIGN PRIZE recognizes both the extraordinary achievements and little sparks of beauty and delight that have emerged over the past 12 months.