Record-breaking balloon journey ends in success

Early morning on Sunday 25th January, an experienced ballooning team took off from Saga, Japan, in an attempt to break two world records.

Leonid Tiukhtyaev and Troy Bradley were attempting to cross the Pacific Ocean in a helium-filled balloon. The team were aiming to beat the endurance record for a gas-filled balloon of 137 hours, which was set by Larry Newman, Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson in 1978, when they successfully crossed the Atlantic.

Bradley and Tiukhtyaev also wanted to break the distance record by covering more than 5,208 miles. Four pilots who took off from Nagashima, Japan, and landed three and half days later in California, US, set the distance record in 1981.

The duo was in the air for six days, 16 hours and 37 minutes. During that time, they covered 6,646 miles, so they have beaten both records by quite a wide margin.

However, the flight did not go quite as planned. Winds meant that they ended up landing four miles off the Mexican coast, rather than landing off the west coast of America. This unexpected course change left their ground crew scrabbling to get to the landing area on time, but they did manage it.

The balloon flight was an arduous one. Oxygen was limited and the pilots did not get the chance to sleep much, because they had to monitor the weather and GPS. Researchers who are studying the effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive abilities monitored the pilots and will be publishing their results soon.

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