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Steve Fossett is known for being one of the greatest adventurers of our time, with numerous achievements and records to his name, all in the field of aviation. He became the first balloonist to travel round the world by himself in a hot air balloon.

The balloon, The Spirit Of Freedom used a combination of hot air and helium, known in the industry as a 'Roziere' balloon. The balloon envelope was 140 ft tall and 60 ft wide. The balloon used a special onboard autopilot system called 'Comstock Autopilot' which can maintain the balloon at a constant altitude by using a computer to control the burners.

The balloon was launched from Northam, Western Australia and the projected flight was to cross the Pacific first and then to travel across Chile, down round Argentina and the Southern Atlantic Ocean. From here would then fly towards South Africa, over the Indian Ocean and would finally end up back in Australia at a longitudinal equal to or farther east than where the journey had begun.

The conditions onboard the basket (or gondola as it is referred to in this case) were far from luxurious! The actual gondola itself was no larger than a normal sized closet. Fossett would on average, manage about 4 hours of sleep each day, in broken down segments of 45 minutes naps. It would have been extremely cramped living in such a confined space. On top of all this, the temperature outside the balloon would have been well below zero and Fossett would have had to regularly climb outside the gondola to change fuel or to check on the burners.

Below, pilot Steve Fossett standing on the gondola of the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon, just after landing down in Australia on July 4th 2002. He became the first person in the world to complete a circumnavigation of the globe in a hot air balloon, completed in just under 15 days.

Here is a brief history of Steve Fossett's attempts at the RTW (round the world) challenge, a total of 5 times before he finally completed the task in 2002. He also set another 2 ballooning records whilst on his 6th circumnavigation attempt - details below:

First Solo RTW attempt January 8th - 11th 1996
Stratobowl, South Dakota to St. John, Canada, approx 2,200 statute miles.
Second Solo RTW attempt January 13th - 20th 1997
Absolute World Distance Record set at 10,360.61 statute miles and Absolute World Duration set at 6 days 2 hours 44 minutes superceded. Travelled St. Louis, Missouri to Sultanpur in 6 days 2 hours 44 minutes.
Third Solo RTW attempt January 1st - 5th 1998
St. Louis, Missouri to Grechanaya, Russia, total distance of 5,802.94 statute miles.
Fourth Solo RTW attempt August 7th - 16th 1998
Absolute World Distance Record-superceded: Mendoza, Argentina to the Coral Sea, a distance of 14,235.33 statute miles (22,910 km).
Fifth Solo RTW attempt August 5th - 17th 2001
Northam, Australia to Bage, Brazil 12 days 12 hours 57 minutes.
24 Hour Balloon Distance Record June 30th - July 1st 2002
Distance of 3,186.80 statute miles (5,128.65 kilometers).
Fastest Speed by Manned Balloon July 1st 2002
Speed of 200.24 mph (322.25 kmh).
First Solo Balloon Flight RTW July 1st 2002
Northam, Western Australia to Queensland, Australia. 13 days 12 hours 5 minutes (14 days 19 hours 50 minutes to landing), 20,482.26 statute miles (32,963 kilometers). Absolute RTW Speed Record-Pending. This was Fossetts 6th attempt at an around the world flight.

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