RENO, Nev. — A third attempt to fly a manned balloon on a record-setting voyage around the world was aborted Saturday morning when the huge vessel broke free from its mooring, struck a crane and smashed to the ground.
The accident happened as the crew was about to board the Earthwinds Hilton balloon at an airport near Reno, project spokesmen said. They said they hoped to make another attempt at launching the balloon in six to eight weeks.
"I don't think this is the end. I think Larry and I will persevere," said Lynn Newman, whose husband, Larry, is captain of the three-member crew.
The dejected captain said Earthwinds was an hour away from its anticipated 14- to 21-day nonstop journey eastward to the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and Asia before returning to the West Coast.
"It just rose and dropped and seemed to hit the ground with some degree of force. It all took a couple of seconds," said Pat Godefroy of the Earthwinds staff.
The 370-foot-tall, 10-ton balloon has a revolutionary hourglass shape. It consists of a large upper balloon, a capsule for the crew and an anchor balloon beneath.
Other members of the crew are Vladimir Dzhanibekov, a former Soviet cosmonaut, and Richard Abruzzo, who last year set a record for time spent in a balloon.