For balloonist Fossett, it's Australia or bust
On course for Down Under after maneuver in tricky windsAugust 13, 1998
Web posted at: 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT)
ST. LOUIS (CNN) -- Floating more than 23,000 feet above the Indian Ocean, adventurer Steve Fossett is hoping that a tactical maneuver taken Thursday will keep his round-the-world balloon quest alive.
To avoid swirling wind patterns and a low pressure system that could have blown him off course or stalled him in the atmospheric equivalent of a parking lot, Fossett slowed his balloon, Solo Spirit, to 30 miles per hour (49 km/h) and pushed it northeastward.
Bob Rice, the meteorologist at Fossett's mission control center in St. Louis, said the balloon appeared to be "well-positioned" to continue its eastward journey toward Australia but that it would be early Friday, St. Louis time, before Fossett's crew knows for sure that he is back on course.
At that point, Solo Spirit should pick up speed, reaching 80 miles per hour (128 km/h) as it heads for a rendezvous with Australia on Saturday.
As of 7:15 EDT Thursday (2315 GMT), Fossett was about 2,730 miles northwest of Perth, Australia. Since taking off from Argentina Friday, he has covered 9,538 miles (15,350 kilometers) on his quest to circumnavigate the Earth, alone and non-stop, in a lighter-than-air craft.
Fossett's projected route takes him across Australia, then back over the Pacific Ocean to South America.
Mission control director Alan Blount said Fossett had been mentally "worn down" and stressed by Thursday's difficulties, worried that he may be running shrot of fuel. However, Blount said Fossett's spirits bounced back after he got some sleep.
Fossett isn't in voice contact with his ground crew; they communicate with him via e-mail.
The entire trip is scheduled to take 18 days, although Fossett has enough fuel and food on board to last for 20. He has made three previous unsuccessful attempts to circle the globe non-stop in a balloon, all of which were over the Northern Hemisphere.
Fossett's control center said it has learned that Australians were organizing a greeting for him, planning to wave white towels or turn on their car headlights if it is nighttime when he crosses the continent.
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