Ballooning across the ocean like camping in the sky Troy Bradley of New Mexico and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia set off from Saga, Japan (AP photos)
Ballooning across the ocean like camping in the sky
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An international team is piloting the helium-filled, Two Eagles balloon across the Pacific Ocean in an effort to break a pair of major ballooning records.

Balloon pilots Troy Bradley, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Leonid Tiukhtyaev (too-kh-TY'-yev), of Russia, launched from Saga, Japan, early Sunday morning. They're aiming for the shores of North America. It's an attempt that will put them on course to break a distance record of 5,208 miles. The record has stood for more than 30 years.

They're also looking to break the flight-duration record. It was set in 1978. That's when Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman made the first trans-Atlantic balloon flight. That record of 137 hours in the air in a traditional gas balloon is considered the finest of ballooning achievements.

Bradley has likened the journey to a camping trip in the sky. The balloon's capsule is about the size of a large tent. It's 7 feet long, 5 feet wide and 5 feet tall. That leaves the pilots little room to move around. Since they're flying at an altitude of at least 15,000 feet, they wear oxygen masks. And they are bundled up to cope with the 50-degree temperature inside the capsule.

They have sleeping bags and a small onboard heater. The balloon is also equipped with a simple toilet.

The pilots have freeze-dried meals, fresh fruit, beef jerky and energy bars, along with lots of water. They even have a small stove. Because of the altitude and the inability to move around, they don't have large appetites.

Bradley and Tiukhtyaev have been sharing photos of the view from their carbon composite capsule via social media. Some photos show the sun peeking over the Earth's curve. Others show part of the balloon and spotty clouds. The clouds cover an ocean of blue tens of thousands of feet below.

The team has been in constant communication with mission control. Updates on the balloon's location are being posted to social media sites.

The team's exact destination in North America is not known. That's because the location will depend on the winds the balloon encounters along the way. As of earlier this week, the balloon was nearly two-thirds of the way across the ocean. It was traveling 78 mph at an altitude of more than 20,000 feet.

Critical thinking challenge: What it the difference between the two records the team is trying to set. Is one record a bigger achievement than the other?

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COMMENTS (53)
  • ryanb-Koc
    2/02/2015 - 02:19 a.m.

    I like the idea of camping in the sky. No bug bites or fierce animals to worry about, just the calming view of the sky. Of course there is the need of oxygen mask and the 50 weather, but that's managable. I'd definitely want to try it one day.

  • alison.richardson63
    2/02/2015 - 12:56 p.m.

    WOW, These men are very courageous. The things people would do to be in a record book. If I were up there I would never look down come to think of it I would never get on that balloon in the first place. This definitely took bravery and I'm glad they made it safely. After all the average air balloon can hold about 1000 pounds with 65,000 square cubic feet of heated air!

  • GageJ-Jac
    2/02/2015 - 01:40 p.m.

    I think this is crazy because they're camping across the ocean and that its like they are camping in the sky.The balloon is equippted with a toilet

  • BadWolf
    2/02/2015 - 01:58 p.m.

    I would never step foot in one of these flying deathtraps myself but I think this is an amazing journey these two people are going on.

  • KageM-Jac
    2/02/2015 - 06:13 p.m.

    I think this would be so cool because you literally would feel like you are the king or queen of the world. But there is a dangerous side to this because what happens if you have a malfunction with the balloon, like if the fire power runs out. But all in all I would go on this trip.

  • GwenS-Jac
    2/02/2015 - 06:15 p.m.

    This sounds kind of fun to go through the air in a big balloon. I didn't there there was a world record for this. I would probably be scared to go high in the air in one of these.

  • KimiT-Jac
    2/02/2015 - 06:20 p.m.

    This is really awesome. I think it's more like going to space because the article says they eat dry food and they don't have much of an appetite.

  • AllisonG-Jac
    2/02/2015 - 09:53 p.m.

    I think it is very cool i would love to try it one day but it looks scary how can a person dive into the sky? its scary.

  • LilyE-4
    2/02/2015 - 10:37 p.m.

    A team of two men, Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev are preparing to break the world record for distance, an astonishing 5,208 miles. The record was held for over 30 years. Early Sunday morning, the duo launched themselves into the sky from Saga, Japan, and are aiming to reach the coast of North America. However, it is a task easier said than done. Flying at an altitude of at least 15,000 feet, the two men will need to wear oxygen masks, as well as lots of coats to accommodate the 50-degree weather. I am very excited, and proud that in this age, we have the ability to make such journeys.

    • MCS2001softball
      2/04/2015 - 08:46 a.m.

      In this day and age, many technological advances have been made, and you can tell that by just looking at the balloon. The balloon that the two men are flying in is made of carbon, while the "traditional" balloon was most likely made out of a less durable compound or element. The balloon that set the record most likely had less technology are communicating with the control center on the ground, and I know for a fact that nobody who set the record had a Twitter or Instagram to post pics of their flight. It is, in fact, amazing how far we've come.

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