Science behind the scenes during Fossett's recent around-the-world ballooning effort


  • Randy Showstack


“In my mind, there's no question. If you eliminate that one temporary setback, he completes the global,” Bob Rice said on August 17, exhausted after having slept little during the previous 8 ½ days of intensive weather forecasting and emotional roller coaster riding.

As chief meteorologist for the Solo Spirit balloon trip, Rice helped to navigate 54-yearold balloonist and businessman Steve Fossett on his fourth attempt to circle the globe nonstop. During that effort, which began at 23:30 UTC on August 7 from Mendoza, Argentina, Fossett had floated 24,460 km—63% of the way around the world longitudinally–surpassing his previous world distance record of 16,674 km set in January 1997. His “roziere” balloon, a combination of gas and hot air, had risen or descended to avoid violent weather systems and winds that would blow him in the wrong direction, and to catch air currents that would push his vessel along. With the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and Australia behind him, only the wide Pacific Ocean lay in Fossett's path.