It was at precisely 8:05 on the 1st of March 1999 that the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon took off. Nobody was yet aware that, only twenty days later, the last great human adventure of the 20th century would have finally reached its epilogue.
At 8.05 on the 1st of March 1999, the Swiss village of Château-d’Oex woke up to see a strange and shiny craft lifting an orange pod in the air. On board, the Swiss balloonist Bertrand Piccard and the Englishman Brian Jones saw the Earth moving further and further away while dreaming that this moment, suspended in time, may soon make history.
However, nothing was less certain: for almost 20 years, the completion of a nonstop trip around the world in a hot air balloon had evaded all attempts. Since the beginning of the 1980s, then more frantically during the next decade, many tried to be the first to succeed at accomplishing the first nonstop trip around the world in a balloon. In total, ten seasoned professional teams attempted twenty-one times to achieve this circumnavigation, following the wind and all its hazards. All poured passion, determination, technology and other resources into this enterprise, including Richard Branson and Steve Fossett, who made several attempts.