Could You Break the Record for an Around-the-World Balloon Flight?
ES1908  How Do You Steer a Balloon?

Balloons are carried by the wind, so pilots have no direct control over their speed and direction. To steer, the pilot moves the balloon up or down in altitude to catch winds with the desired speed and direction. An understanding of global wind patterns, particularly the jet stream, is critical for around-the-world balloon flight. Mission control monitors meteorological data, which it relays to the pilots so they can choose the most favorable winds.

On August 4, 2001, balloonist Steve Fossett launched his Solo Spirit from Northam, Western Australia, in his fifth attempt to make the first round-the-world solo flight.

  !   Move your cursor over each of the points along the Solo Spirit flight path to discover how Fossett steered his balloon.

Base Map: NOAA
Steering maneuvers made by the Solo Spirit balloon.

Although Solo Spirit did not make it around the world, Fossett set a record for the longest solo flight, lasting 12 days 12 hours 57 minutes and covering a distance of 20,430 km (12,690 mi).

1. How do you steer a balloon?


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