After a record-breaking 187 days aloft, we have recently landed the Project’s longest duration balloon in one of our Argentinian recovery zones.
That’s a long time! Enough time to hard-boil 33,660 eggs, or 134,640 if you like your yolk runny (doesn’t include eating time), or listen to Elton John’s “Rocket Man” just over 61,000 times. In the same time it took the Earth to complete half of its annual orbit of the sun, our record-breaker managed to circumnavigate the globe 9 times, enduring temperatures as low as -75c (-103 F) and wind speeds as high as 291 km/h, soaring to a maximum height of 21km and drifting over more than a dozen countries across 4 continents.
Having been in the air for just over 3 months we decided to put the balloon through its paces, making a series of altitude changes on its last circumnavigation to test our ability to fly north out of southern latitude bands. The test was successful and we managed to turn up to the Northern tip of Australia where we were able to access a much slower wind stream going in the opposite direction and sending our balloon lazily back over to South America. Finally, we brought it back into its original southern latitude band to swoop in and land in one of our Argentinian recovery zones for collection.
Recovery operations are now underway to bring the balloon back to the lab so the team can analyze this magnificent specimen and learn as much as possible about what makes such long durations possible, building these learnings into our future long-duration fleets before putting the record-breaker through our recycling process. We think that this balloon has definitely earned its retirement!