Adventurer to fly to stratosphere in hot air balloon

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov, who set the world record for circumnavigation, recalls his 11-day-long flight in a hot air balloon and reveals his plans to fly to the stratosphere.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - After setting a world record for circumnavigating the world solo in a hot air balloon, Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov said he is planning a flight to stratosphere - the second major layer of the Earth's atmosphere.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday (Aug 3), Konyukhov said he hopes to beat another world record. On July 12, he embarked on his current epic hot air balloon journey, starting from Northam in Western Australia. He spent 11 days in the balloon gondola. When Konyukhov broke the record, he was directly over Northam at an altitude of approximately 6,000 meters and travelling at 60kmh.

The Russian balloonist beat the previous record of 13-and-a-half days set in 2002 by the late American Steve Fossett. Konyukhov, an Orthdodox priest and writer, has devoted his achievement to Fossett's memory. During the journey Konyukhov flew as high as 10,000m and dealt with extreme temperatures - as low as -56 deg C - that caused his oxygen masks and drinking water to freeze. On the last leg of the journey, he was pushed far south toward Antarctica as he crossed the southern ocean between Africa and Australia, and the explorer faced a cold cyclone he couldn't jump over and was forced to bypass.

Konyukhov flew over New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and got back to Australia, travelling 34,000km.