Steve Fossett is known for being one of the greatest adventurers of our time, with numerous achievements and records to his name, all in the field of aviation. He became the first balloonist to travel round the world by himself in a hot air balloon.
The balloon, The Spirit Of Freedom used a combination of hot air and helium, known in the industry as a 'Roziere' balloon. The balloon envelope was 140 ft tall and 60 ft wide. The balloon used a special onboard autopilot system called 'Comstock Autopilot' which can maintain the balloon at a constant altitude by using a computer to control the burners.
The balloon was launched from Northam, Western Australia and the projected flight was to cross the Pacific first and then to travel across Chile, down round Argentina and the Southern Atlantic Ocean. From here would then fly towards South Africa, over the Indian Ocean and would finally end up back in Australia at a longitudinal equal to or farther east than where the journey had begun.
The conditions onboard the basket (or gondola as it is referred to in this case) were far from luxurious! The actual gondola itself was no larger than a normal sized closet. Fossett would on average, manage about 4 hours of sleep each day, in broken down segments of 45 minutes naps. It would have been extremely cramped living in such a confined space. On top of all this, the temperature outside the balloon would have been well below zero and Fossett would have had to regularly climb outside the gondola to change fuel or to check on the burners.
Below, pilot Steve Fossett standing on the gondola of the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon, just after landing down in Australia on July 4th 2002. He became the first person in the world to complete a circumnavigation of the globe in a hot air balloon, completed in just less than 15 days.