Can you imagine camping miles above the ground?
That’s how a team of balloonists is describing their record-breaking crossing of the Pacific Ocean after successfully touching down last Saturday. The Two Eagles balloon, piloted by American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev, launched from Japan on Jan. 25. The team then traveled for seven days across the Pacific Ocean before touching down off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California on Jan. 31.
The Two Eagle pilots had traveled 6,646 miles over nearly seven days, traveling as high as 30,000 feet. Their landing will likely mark a new world record for distance traveled in a gas balloon, breaking a previous one that has stood for more than three decades. The team also broke a flight-duration record from 1978, when a team spent 137 hours in the air. The team was aiming for North America, but since the trip was largely guided by wind speeds, their exact travel time and distance was partly out of their control.
Bradley equated the expedition to a sky-high camping trip. The capsule where the crew stayed was roughly the size of a large tent, giving the occupants little room to themselves. Since the balloon flew at thousands of feet for most of the journey, the pilots wore oxygen masks and winter gear to cope with the sparse oxygen and frigid temperatures. The cabin’s only features were sleeping bags, a small heater and a toilet.
The pilots dined on food similar to that campers might use; freeze-dried meals, fruit, beef jerky, and energy bars designed to stay well-preserved and provide lots of energy without taking up a lot of room. The crew also brought along a small stove for occasional hot meals.
From takeoff to landing, the team shared pictures of their trip via social media, which included awe-inspiring shots of the sunset over the earth’s curve and clouds over the blue ocean. These campers in the sky may have never left the tent, but they still had quite the view.