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It all started back in 1986 after the Challenger accident, when Michel Fournier decided to reach his objectives, start the research, and begin scientific studies on the feasibility of a solution including such constraints. His project simulates in actual size an astronaut's team rescue exercise at a critical launching altitude. The preparation includes the knowledge and control of high altitude winds called jet streams (currents running from 400 to 600 km/h, sometimes outdistanced of few meters levels).
Photo © 2000 Michel Fournier
It also includes the medium term weather forecasts, allowing the utilization of focused forecasts on a very limited area. Studies show that new questions emerged from this first worldwide event. For instance, what about the "Bang" protection after passing through the sound barrier? These studies show the set up of the first observation processes. The experience more globally contributes to better understand and control the existing problems of high altitude stratum penetration.
For ten years, Michel has been fighting for his project. The project will cost 20,5 million Francs (US $2,885,000) without any sponsors or subsidies, and with only the help of his technical and scientific partners for this project. So, he gave up all belongings and sold all he had to finance his project.
As he states on his web site: "Each human being has its own dream. I like life which gives it back to me fairly. I like to discover, make new experience. I am dynamic and realist. I am also pugnacious, optimistic, and stubborn. People around me bring me the ability that lacked in my basic training. I listen and learn fast. Above all, I believe in my lucky star and in the virtues of bravery and personal commitment. What I like the most is the extreme, always higher, faster, further and more audacious. Today, after a very long study period of physical, technical and psychological preparation, I have the intimate conviction of the feasibility of this huge project... and I have acquired all the competencies needed to succeed."
Michel Fournier has an impressive number of 8000 jumps, is the French record holder of freefall, from an altitude of 12000 meters (about 37,000 feet), has his name in the Guinness Book of Records, has been awarded the Aeronautical Medal and is a French National Merit Officer.
You can support Michel's project by buying one square meter (11 square feet) of the signed balloon fabric for FF 100,- (about US $ 14).
Check out his web site at www.legrandsaut.com for detailed information on his project, an interview and many photos. And once you are there, don't forget to make a reservation for that piece of legendary balloon!
The Balloon The Suit The Basket
All Photos © 2000 Michel Fournier