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An Altitude Problem

A few years ago, a couple of adventurers tried to become the first to circle the globe in a hot air balloon.


They took off from St. Louis, Missouri, rose to 24,000 feet, and started eastward across the Atlantic Ocean toward Africa.


The prevailing winds carried the balloonists on a direct course for Libya, which was a big problem.


Libya is ruled by a dictator who hates Americans and doesn’t want American balloons flying over his country.


There was a pretty good chance that the balloon would be shot down if it crossed Libyan air space.


This brings up another big problem.


Hot air balloons aren’t easy to turn. In fact, they can’t be turned at all. They’re at the mercy of the wind.


But they can find different winds. This is done by changing altitude.


At a higher or lower altitude, a balloonist can usually find a crosswind blowing in a different direction.


So the quick thinking adventurers started letting hot air out of their balloon and dropped 6,000 feet.


At that altitude, they found a wind that was blowing south rather than east.


Once they were safely to the south of Libya and its missiles, they heated up the balloon, rose almost 10,000 feet, and caught another wind that was blowing eastward toward their destination.

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