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Balloon Landing Is Fifth Failure For Steve Fossett - 2001-08-17


Bad weather has forced American balloonist Steve Fossett give up his solo attempt to circle the Earth.

Mr. Fossett landed Friday on a cattle ranch in southern Brazil just after he reached the halfway point in his attempt to become the first person to circle the globe in a balloon.

The giant silver balloon went down near the southern city of Bage, in the Brazilian flatlands near the border with Uruguay. Pictures from the scene after it landed showed the balloon lying on the ground half deflated, after apparently hitting a row of trees.

Speaking to reporters by telephone from Brazil, Mr. Fossett said he was disappointed at the failure. "My initial reaction was that this is the greatest disappointment of my life," Mr. Fossett said, "because we have made all the proper preparations for this balloon flight. I had the team backing me up I had the right equipment and the personal experience to do this, so its a huge disappointment."

Mr. Fossett, a 57-year old businessman from Chicago, began his round-the-world trip in Australia on August 4. By Thursday, he had traveled some 19,000 kilometers making his balloon flight the second-longest ever.

His balloon, the Solo Spirit, had successfully crossed the towering Andes mountains earlier in the week, despite strong winds that buffeted the tiny craft and forced Mr. Fossett to don a parachute as a precaution.

After he crossed the Andes, members of his mission control team in Saint Louis, Missouri, began to think the worst was over. But weather forecasts predicting bad weather over the Atlantic Ocean led to the decision to cancel the rest of the journey.

This was the fifth time Mr. Fossett has tried to make it around the world in a balloon, and he says he is not sure if he will try again. "I couldn't venture a guess on that," he said. "It's really tough when my team has spent their entire summer preparing this balloon system for me in Australia. It would just be really tough to put together a 100 percent effort like that again and its a difficult flight, the conditions up there were really difficult and I wouldn't speculate as to if I would be willing to make another try."

Despite his latest failure, the adventurer says he believes an around the world balloon trip can be done, he's just not sure if he will be the one to do it.

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