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American Again Tries to Fly Balloon Around World - 2002-06-19


American adventurer Steve Fossett is trying again to become the first person to fly alone around the world in a balloon. Mr. Fossett lifted off from Western Australia Wednesday morning.

This is the sixth time Mr. Fossett is trying to fly a balloon solo around the world. Last year he set a solo duration record by remaining aloft for 12 and a half days before weather and low oxygen supplies forced him to land in Brazil.

About 1,000 people were on hand for the mid-morning liftoff Wednesday in the Western Australia town of Northam. Winds at the launch site delayed the liftoff by about six hours. At the Fossett mission control site in St. Louis, Missouri, flight meteorologist Luc Trullemans says the winds are more favorable now. "At the upper level, the conditions are very great," he said. "We have a 50-55 knot wind blowing from the west to the east. I expect the balloon in one day to be somewhere along the South Coast of Australia; in two days, between the East Coast of Australia and the North of New Zealand."

The flight team hopes the 42 meter tall Spirit of Freedom balloon will reach the coast of Chile by Monday. If all goes well, the balloon could be back in Australia in 15-20 days.

During the flight, the 58-year-old Chicago millionaire lives in a closet-sized Kevlar and carbon capsule hanging from the balloon. He breathes oxygen through a mask and eats military-style field rations.

Mr. Fossett plans to sleep about four hours a day, in a series of short naps.

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