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Tired flier bound for the ground

Round-the-world balloonist eyes Wednesday touchdown

Fossett's balloon, Spirit of Freedom, is expected to land in Australia.  

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Steve Fossett, the first person to circumnavigate the globe alone in a balloon, is scheduled set foot on solid ground again with a landing Wednesday in southern Australia.

Fossett's landing time is now projected to be 5:30 p.m. (4 a.m. EDT) about 170 miles north-northwest of Adelaide, in the state of South Australia, flight controllers said. He is expected to cross the coast about three and a half hours earlier (12:30 a.m. EDT).

Tuesday, Fossett crossed 117 degrees east longitude, which was where he started his journey on June 19 in his balloon, the Spirit of Freedom.

When he completed the circumnavigation, Fossett was flying over the ocean off Australia's southern coast. His success in reaching one of aviation's most elusive milestones came after five previous attempts failed.

"It's enormous relief and satisfaction," he said, speaking by phone with reporters at Washington University in St. Louis, where his mission control team is based. "I've put everything into this, all of my efforts, all of my skills. I've taken the risks ... and finally, after six flights, I've succeeded."

CNN's Hugh Williams reports on balloonist Steve Fosset's effort to get back on the ground
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Steve Fossett, the first person to circumnavigate the globe alone in a balloon, is scheduled to set foot on solid ground again in southern Australia. CNN's Jeff Flock reports (July 3)

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Map: Fossett's flight path 
Fossett' s "Spirit of Freedom" 
Previous aviation records 
Balloonist's background
Fossett holds world records in ballooning, sailing and flying airplanes. He also swam the English Channel in 1985, placed 47th in the Iditarod dog sled race in 1992 and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in 1996.

-- Source: The Associated Press

In March 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first people to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon. But until Tuesday, no solo balloonist had ever accomplished the feat.

Asked about how he marked the moment, Fossett said that he couldn't "do very much celebrating here." He had a few bottles of beer, "but I'm saving that for the landing because there's no one to drink it with here."

Fossett's ground crew first thought he would break the record over land in western Australia, near the town of Kalgoorlie, but shifting winds pushed him to the south of the continent.

Strong winds over the Indian Ocean had propelled Fossett to speeds reaching 200 mph (300 km/h), a personal solo speed record for him, according to his control center. He was traveling about 60 mph at 27,000 feet (9,000 meters) as he completed the circumnavigation.

Fossett, 58, has a long history of completing challenging adventures, including swimming the English Channel, piloting a dog sled in the Iditarod race in Alaska, driving in the LeMans auto endurance race in France and finishing the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.

In May, he and his crew of 12 broke the trans-Mediterranean (Marseilles to Carthage) sailing record, giving him nine of the 10 fastest "outright" world sailing records plus the 24-hour record.

Fossett said he has already set another task for himself.

"My next big project is to fly a glider into the stratosphere (between 9 and 31 miles high), and will make the first attempts at that around the end of July," he said.

First, he said, he wanted to land his balloon.

-- CNN Correspondent Jeff Flock contributed to this report.


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