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Fossett's flight 'picture-perfect so far'

Fossett's balloon
Fossett drifts over the Atlantic   
In this story: January 1, 1998
Web posted at: 11:32 p.m. EST (0432 GMT)

ST. LOUIS (CNN) -- Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett finished the first full day of his attempt to circle the world nonstop in a balloon Saturday by guiding his Solo Spirit toward air currents he hopes will carry him across Europe.

At 5:30 p.m. CST (6:30 p.m. EST), Fossett was 70 miles southeast of Bermuda, cruising at 80 mph, or 68 knots, at an altitude of 22,000 feet.

A L S O :

Uliassi asks, 'What went wrong?'

Interactive maps of Solo Spirit's flight and science payload from the Solo Spirit Web Site

Fossett's present location

Members of Fossett's team in St. Louis said he is at the edge of the polar jet stream, and that after he maneuvers the balloon into it sometime in the next 24 hours, his speed should increase to 170 mph.

Solo Spirit takes off
Fossett took off from St. Louis Wednesday   

Steve Fossett discusses his latest attempt

"This is a great moment ..."
icon 583K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
"It hasn't been done yet ..."
icon 437K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
On Uliassi: "He's got me worried."
icon 188K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Chief Engineer Tim Cole explains Fossett's schedule after dark

icon 289K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Watch the liftoff
video icon 1.1M/15 sec./240x180
590K/15 sec./160x120
QuickTime movie

vxtreme Fossett lifts off

vxtreme Watch the news conference

"We can't complain about anything," mission spokesman Doug Blount said from the team's Washington University command center in St. Louis. "It's been picture-perfect so far."

By Friday morning, Fossett's team should be able to calculate his consumption of fuel, which is needed to heat the balloon and keep it aloft. Consumption is controlled by an automatic pilot most of the time.

In messages exchanged with the command center, Fossett said all systems were working and that the heaters on board -- which did not work well on his previous attempt -- were keeping him warm.

Two hours of 'rest'

Fossett was able to get two hours of "rest," but has not slept yet, a spokesman said. "Steve doesn't really sleep," commented one team member. "He just goes into a heavy drowse."

To conserve electricity, Fossett is sending only occasional messages by satellite.

Fossett, a wealthy commodities trader from Chicago, is trying to become the first person to pilot a balloon nonstop around the world, a feat that would earn him $500,000 and an identical sum for the charity of his choice.

The St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. is offering the money; the flight must be completed by December 31, 1999.

Fossett set out from Busch Stadium in St. Louis about sunset Wednesday roughly 90 minutes ahead of schedule.

Blount said the launch, and the fact that things have gone well so far, have helped put Fossett and the crew more at ease than they have been on Fossett's two previous attempts. But, Blount added, that doesn't mean everyone can relax and expect no problems.

"When things start going wrong, it gets real exciting real fast," he told reporters.

Aiming for Iberian peninsula

Fossett is expected to begin his European crossing somewhere over the Iberian peninsula, but it will be a while longer before the team can predict exactly where.

Fossett has enough fuel, oxygen, and food to stay aloft for 22 days, but the trip could be completed in as few as 10 days.

"Our plans are to go pick him up about 100 miles east of (St. Louis) in about 15 days," one team member said.

Architect and ballooning instructor Kevin Uliassi, one of Fossett's rivals in the race to become the first balloonist to circle the globe, landed safely in northern Indiana just three hours after lifting off from the floor of an Indiana rock quarry on Wednesday night.

Uliassi's balloon developed a leak that caused it to lose altitude rapidly and forced him to ditch the craft in a field.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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