Fossett survives a "very dangerous situation’
Upon hearing the news, all of the team members gathered to shake hands and hug in celebration, as Mission Control was filled with the sound of applause from everyone present.
However, while Fossett landed safely and unharmed, the process was far from perfect. Via telephone, he explained during a press conference at Washington University in St. Louis that both the weather and the technical difficulties made for a rough landing.
“It was a very dangerous situation with the landing,” explained Fossett, who owns a home in Beaver Creek.
First, the landing site had ground winds approaching 20 knots, when ideally they would have none. This problem was compounded when the balloon envelope would not detach from the capsule, meaning that it could have “dragged forever,” said Fossett.
Fortunately ground team members, such as Project Manager Tim Cole, were able to help Fossett pull the ripcord that detached the capsule from the rest of the balloon.
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Though the landing was more dangerous than he had hoped, Fossett said the impact itself was actually very smooth, even less than one would feel jumping from a tabletop.
“The impact was really not too serious,” said Fossett.
Despite the risky landing, Fossett was in high spirits and still plans on attempting to fly a glider into the stratosphere by the end of July or the beginning of August. But for now, he will assist the team in Australia with transporting the balloon before heading to a press conference in Sydney.
While Fossett plans on heading home within the next day, the capsule of Bud Light Spirit of Freedom will travel on one more adventure. Fossett said he received confirmation yesterday that it will be kept in the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. It will be hung next to the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the plane Charles Lindbergh made famous when he used it to become the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane.
Editor’s Note: This is an update directly from a Web site, http://www.spiritoffreedom.com, dedicated to the progress of part-time Beaver Creek resident Steve Fossett and his sixth – and now successful – try to become the first solo balloonist to circle the globe. In five earlier solo attempts, Fossett has plummeted into the Coral Sea and, last summer, was forced to ditch the balloon on a Brazilian cattle ranch after 12 days in flight, making it the longest-ever solo balloon flight. Fossett holds opther world records in ballooning, too, as well as sailing and flying airplanes.