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Balloon Tycoon Gives Up

American adventurer Steve Fossett has ended his quest to set a round-the-world solo ballooning record.

He landed Friday morning in southern Brazil. His mission control in St. Louis blamed severe storms in his flight path.

Fossett had traveled more than 12,000 miles, making the balloon flight the second longest ever, and the longest solo flight on record.

The 57-year-old millionaire crossed the coast of Chile above a heavy cloud layer in the dark early Thursday morning and passed over a 22,000-foot peak in the mountains that form the backbone of South America.

Fossett just before takeoff

It had been thought crossing the Andes would be the toughest part of his voyage.

Fossett began his bid to become the first person to circle the globe solo in a balloon from western Australia on August 4.

On Tuesday, he broke the unofficial flight duration record of 10 days and three hours alone in a balloon.

The previous record, set in 2000, was not registered by the France-based Federation Aeronautique International, which verifies aviation feats.

Fossett's team said the balloonist widely regarded as the previous record holder, fellow American Kevin Uliassi, had congratulated Fossett via satellite e-mail.

"Thanks for the good wishes. This is the most difficult flight I have made," Fossett's mission control in St. Louis, Missouri, quoted him as writing in reply.

Fossett had set the solo balloon distance record of 14,200 mile in 1998. That voyage nearly ended in death for Fossett when a Pacific thunderstorm ripped his balloon and sent him plunging into the ocean.

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