Suppose the transcontinental flight of Maxie Anderson and his son Kris had been the debut of the balloon in North America. Would someone have said what a bystander is supposed to have said at the first balloon ascension in Paris two centuries ago: "But what good is it?" And would there have been a Ben Franklin on hand to reply as he so memorably did: "Of what good is a newborn baby?"

We hope so. For human beings have to preserve a certain impulse to achieve new things before they know what good they are. Not to hang back, as Franklin said, from "prosecuting a new experiment which apparently increases the power of man over matter."

So we may not know what good it is for Mr. Anderson to have gone on from conquering the Atlantic by balloon in 1978 to conquering the continent by balloon this year. But a part of us was flying with him -- and applauding.

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