First Around the World

For balloonists Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, the end of one journey marked the beginning of another.

(Carolyn Russo, NASM)

Makers of History

(Piccard Family)

Piccard, a descendant of ballooning royalty, followed in the footsteps of his grandfather Auguste, who made the first balloon flight into the stratosphere in 1931. Auguste Piccard also invented a pressurized gondola for high-altitude flights and a bathyscaphe for deep-sea exploration. A psychiatrist, Bertrand Piccard was often philosophical about his adventure and the several attempts he made before his successful flight. As he crossed Pakistan and India during his flight in the Breitling Orbiter 2, for example, he expressed what might be thought of as a creed for balloonists, who are forever at the mercy of the wind:

As we sat out on top of the gondola, cruising at between 20 and 30 mph in complete silence, spices from cooking and incense from temples came wafting up, along with the faint shouts of children. This was emphatically not what we were meant to be doing: we were supposed to be flying fast and high, inside a pressurized cabin, in pursuit of our dream—and here we were, flying slow and low in the warm air, going nowhere.

But it was a magical experience. Having no goal any more we felt no stress, and once again I realized how important it is to accept whatever life brings.

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