In 2015, adventurers Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev flew over the Pacific Ocean in a helium balloon. At TEDxABQ, Albuquerque resident Bradley shared what it took to complete their “week-long camping trip in the air” — a journey from Saga, Japan to Baja California, Mexico.
Bradley and Tiukhtyaev had to wait years for a weather pattern fit for launching and navigating a balloon across the Pacific: “In a balloon, the only way to travel is downwind,” Bradley says. “There is no … waiting for the weather to improve. We have one shot, with no turning back.”
In January 2015, the weather was right and the pair launched their balloon in Saga, ready to travel over the Pacific. “By sunset we were passing Mt. Fuji and a few hours later were above the ground, looking down on the lights of Tokyo.”
The trip was not easy, Bradley says. “The trick was to move fast enough to not allow bad weather to catch us, and move slow enough to not catch bad weather in front of us; and the window between these two was very tiny and required a lot of precision flying.” In their 7 feet by 5 feet capsule, the two shared a space “the size of a large tent” fit with navigational materials, nourishment and “a very nice plastic-lined bucket,” Bradley says.
At home in Albuquerque, a team monitored weather patterns and flight data twenty-four hours a day. “Our meteorologist was tasked with looking at the weather models, updating his forecast and then relaying that information to us; a typical text from him might say something like, ‘For the next six hours, you need to be at 16,000 feet in order to achieve being at this location later.’”
For over 160 hours, the pair flew; making it to their destination 6,646 miles after launch.
To learn more, watch Bradley’s whole talk below: