Aeronautics: Balky Balloon

"This damned thing has gone nuts!" One day last week that remark was radioed down to Earth from a crippled balloon high in the stratosphere. It represented the supreme frustration of three army officers marooned in a purple-black sky at 60,000 ft. Their rubberized gasbag, biggest ever, yawned with an enormous rip.

For months the most intensive preparations preceded the takeoff of the Explorer, second stratoflight in the U. S., seventh since Professor Auguste Piccard's in 1931.* Backed by the Army Air Corps and the National Geographic Society, the stratonauts planned...

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