Remembering Steve Fossett's 2002 Solo Round-the-World Balloon Flight

BOCCON-GIBOD // AFP // Getty Images
BOCCON-GIBOD // AFP // Getty Images

On July 2, 2002, 58-year-old millionaire Steve Fossett completed the world's first solo circumnavigation of the Earth in a hot air balloon. He piloted the Spirit of Freedom in a flight that lasted two weeks and covered more than 19,263 miles. It was his sixth attempt.

Incidentally, Fossett's balloon trip was even more notable if you tacked on some qualifiers. It was the first circumnavigation of the Earth in any sort of vehicle that was aerial, uninterrupted, unrefueled, and solo. The use of a balloon made this feat somewhat more practical than using a fixed-wing aircraft with its generally higher fuel demands...but then Fossett broke the fixed-wing record too in 2005, when he did the same thing in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer.

Fossett had been setting records for a while. He held a pile of records related to circumnavigating the Earth via plane and boat. He was into gliders, skiing, mountain climbing, dogsled racing, car racing, you name it. He even swam the English channel in the mid-'80s.

When Fossett crossed the finish line of his historical balloon flight, he wasn't quite done. He was drifting over Australia, sorting out where to land safely. So the moment he broke the record, he was alone in his balloon, communicating via radio with his team on the ground.

Eventually Fossett landed in Queensland, Australia (having taken off from Northam two weeks before). He celebrated with a few cans of Bud Light, but not because champagne was too high-class—in fact, the entire trip was prominently sponsored by Bud Light, and Fossett carried several bottles with him around the world. (Inside the balloon, prominent Bud Light branding was everywhere.) Fossett's shrewd use of such endorsements made the trip relatively inexpensive, which was frankly necessary given that he only achieved his goal on the sixth try.

That sixth attempt was successful in part due to favorable weather, and in part due to the choice of a Southern Hemisphere route. Fossett was concerned about drifting into hostile airspace in the Northern Hemisphere (which had happened on previous attempts). With fewer individual nations to traverse (and a whole lot of ocean) in the south, Fossett successfully avoided that problem this time. Favorable winds pushed him along at speeds near 200 mph at times, and in fact he set various balloon flight speed records along the way.

During the flight, Fossett used a bucket as a toilet, ate survival rations, and brought canisters of oxygen to aid breathing at altitude. It was by no means an easy trip, especially for a man pushing 60. Adventurer Steve Fossett achieved his goal, and went on to continue setting records until his death. He died on Labor Day in 2007 in the Sierra Nevada, flying a light aircraft.

For a history of Fossett and his ballooning records, check out this three-part documentary:

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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13 Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions

Would you fly in this?
Would you fly in this?

As it turns out, being destroyed by the very thing you create is not only applicable to the sentient machines and laboratory monsters of science fiction.

In this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy takes us on a sometimes tragic, always fascinating journey through the history of invention, highlighting 13 unfortunate innovators whose brilliant schemes brought about their own demise. Along the way, you’ll meet Henry Winstanley, who constructed a lighthouse in the English Channel that was swept out to sea during a storm … with its maker inside. You’ll also hear about stuntman Karel Soucek, who was pushed from the roof of the Houston Astrodome in a custom-designed barrel that landed off-target, fatally injuring its occupant.

And by the end of the episode, you just might be second-guessing your secret plan to quit your day job and become the world’s most daredevilish inventor.

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