Space shuttle set to launch over NZ

The 16th Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta, New Zealand, will witness its first ever ‘space shuttle’ hot air balloon launch. Known as “Patriot”, the enormous replica – which stands at 54m and weighs 449 kilograms – has never before been seen down under, and will be travelling especially to the festival for the occasion.

With a wingspan of 35m and being 40% bigger than a real space shuttle, it could potentially carry the size of one of these shuttles in merely its envelope. Somewhere in the region of 15-20 people are needed to inflate and deflate the balloon. Patriot was originally created in Brazil in 2003 to celebrate 100 years of winged flight.

The Festival will be a four-day affair, taking place from March 13 – 16, 2014. In total, 25 other hot air balloons are thought to be participating at the event alongside Patriot, which will include a number of displays and competitions.

A new programme of events will occur at next year’s festival, including a mass ascension at the opening ceremony, a dawn patrol to Martinborough, a ‘burner parade’ in Cartertown and Greytown and a flight at Carrington Park in Carterton.

The most popular event, the ‘Trust House Night Glow’, is taking place on March 15 at Solway Showgrounds in Masterton. Here, the crowd witnesses glowing tethered balloons to a musical accompaniment.

Finally, the Henley Lake challenge, will be celebrated on last day, with further exciting additions to the new calendar of events set to be announced in the coming months.

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