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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 14:40 GMT
Balloon project deflated again
Ultra-Long-Duration Balloon Nasa
Inflated balloon at the launch site
Nasa researchers are attempting to recover a giant balloon that landed on the coast of western Australia, after a second, failed attempt to fly around the world at the edge of space.

The helium-filled plastic balloon was forced down in high winds about 24 hours after its launch from Alice Springs on Saturday. It had travelled about 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) in a westerly direction before ditching near the Indian Ocean.

The American space agency, Nasa, had hoped the balloon would circumnavigate the Earth at a height of 35 km (20 miles). It would have ridden on top of most of the planet's atmosphere.

The high-altitude balloon is designed for use as a cheap alternative to rocket-launched satellites.

Remote control

Gary Woods, from the balloon launching station at Alice Springs, said on Monday that a team was heading to Carnarvon to recover the craft. The landing site had already been spotted from the air.

Balloon Nasa
The balloon looks like a pumpkin
He said that Nasa had decided to proceed with the test flight on Saturday despite bad weather conditions because it would still have provided information needed for research.

A first attempt to circle the globe by high-altitude balloon took place on 25 February after long delays due to bad weather. But that balloon was destroyed when controllers brought it down by remote control after it sprang a leak a few hours into its flight.

This second flight was intended to find clues to why the first balloon failed. Initial observations suggest it may have met with a similar fate.

Little atmosphere

Nasa hopes the balloons could be a cheap alternative to rocket-borne satellites, with flights lasting up to 100 days.

The pumpkin-shaped Ultra-Long-Duration Balloon (ULDB) is designed to inflate gradually to the size of a football field as it approaches the outer reaches of the Earth's atmosphere.

It is the largest single-cell, fully sealed balloon ever flown, with a fully inflated diameter of 58.5 metres (193 feet) and height of 35 metres (115 feet).

It is intended to travel at an altitude of 35 km (20 miles), three to four times higher than passenger aircraft fly. The balloon would ride above all but 1% of the Earth's atmosphere.

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See also:

25 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Giant balloon project deflated
12 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
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