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Balloonist Completes Record-Breaking Trip - 2002-07-04

American adventurer Steve Fossett's record-breaking balloon voyage is finally over. The 58-year-old has landed in outback Australia more than a day after becoming the first solo balloonist to fly around the world.

Mr. Fossett's giant silver balloon touched down just after dawn near the desert town of Durham Downs in a remote part of Queensland. It's almost half a continent away from his original landing site after gusty winds delayed his return to earth.

The 58-year-old is in high spirits and said he had a bumpy landing. He added that the flight was the most dangerous things he'd ever done and that he'd been wearing his parachute as he prepared to touch down.

It took him two weeks to become the first solo balloonist to circumnavigate the globe. He crossed the finishing line near the coast of Western Australia more than a day and a half ago.

There was overnight drama aboard the balloon "Spirit of Freedom" when the American tycoon had to extinguish a small fire inside his tiny living capsule.

Landing was always going to be a delicate operation. As the giant balloon began to lose speed, it became increasingly more difficult to control. This is Mr. Fossett's sixth attempt to fly single-handedly around the world. The last time he tried in August last year, storms forced him to land in Brazil, where he was dragged for several minutes along the ground before he managed to cut a cable to detach the gondola.

On another occasion he survived a diasterous plunge into the Coral Sea off Australia.

Now safely back to earth, Mr. Fossett is due to fly to Sydney to give more details of his extraordinary journey.