Russian balloonist launches world record bid in Outback town
A Russian has launched his helium balloon from an Australian Outback town in an attempt to set a non-stop round-the-world record.
Fedor Konyukhov launched the 170ft balloon from the same field outside Northam in Western Australia state where the late American adventurer Steve Fossett started his circumnavigation of the globe in 2002.
Mr Konyukhov, 65, hopes to complete the journey in a cramped gondola in less than the 13 days that Mr Fossett took. Mr Fossett died in a plane crash in 2007.
From Northam, 60 miles north east of the state capital Perth, the 1.6-tonne balloon is expected to fly east across Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa before returning to Australia after drifting more than 19,000 miles.
The launch was originally scheduled for July 2, but weather conditions forced a delay.
Australian entrepreneur and adventurer Dick Smith said Mr Konyukhov was the most likely person to break Mr Fossett's record.
"He's an incredible adventurer. He's what I call a responsible risk taker," Mr Smith said.
"I sat in the gondola last night with him, it's an incredibly complex piece of machinery. He's also prepared to take quite high levels of risk."