American millionaire Steve Fossett’s latest attempt to be the first man to fly a balloon solo around the world is all set to go, except for one key thing — the right weather.
Twiddling their thumbs in the Australian outback town of Kalgoorlie, the adventurer’s team said on Tuesday that the 150-foot tall, 20,000 pound Solospirit balloon was ready to launch on its record-breaking flight. But a low pressure front that had brought stiff winds and frigid temperatures to the arid, red sand plains of Western Australia meant this week’s planned take-off had been put back. “Monday is the best shot,” project manager Tim Cole said as he herded the media around an airport hanger in Kalgoorlie where the mission is based.
Outside, the balloon’s 40 propane/ethane cylinders were lined up while the hanger housed the balloon’s kevlar capsule, dripping with cameras, global positioning systems and satellite communications, and a chamber where Fossett will sleep to get used to the lack of air pressure he will face 20,000 feet up. It will be Fossett’s fifth attempt to get around the world on his own in a balloon. Fossett’s unpressurized capsule was made by a British company that manufactures the sonar nose cones for ships and Trident nuclear submarines.
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