Around the World in a Balloon in 20 Days

After two decades of failed attempts, a balloon sails into history with the help of technology and the weather

In the novel Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg employed all manner of transport--steamers, railways, yachts, carriages, trading vessels, sledges and even elephants. But no balloon. It was Hollywood, not Jules Verne, that sent the intrepid Brit off in that aircraft. Trivia, you say? But there was nothing trivial about the real-life fulfillment of what seemed to be quixotic fantasy last week in Northern Africa. In a 180-ft.-high balloon, a silvery dare in the air, two adventurers--Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard, 41, and British balloon instructor Brian Jones, 51--completed their tour of the world in 20 days. The stakes were...

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