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Terror in the Outback: Attack of the Giant Space Balloon

Rogue gasbag wrecks car, petrifies goggling onlookers

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A "giant space balloon" went out of control in Australia yesterday in a "gut-wrenching" incident which saw a car wrecked and bystanders within inches of death, according to eyewitness accounts.

The giant gasbag was intended to ascend 20 miles to the edge of space, there to measure cosmic gamma-ray emissions and probe the mysteries of the universe. Unfortunately the launch near the town of Alice Springs went wrong and the small-truck sized payload gondola slung beneath the envelope hurtled sideways across the ground, wrecking a parked car (fortunately unoccupied) and almost destroying another.

According to Aussie news channel ABC, who had a crew present to record the launch, Alice Springs couple Alan and Betty Davies were sitting in their car watching the launch when the rogue gondola smashed into a vehicle parked adjacent to them.

"I think if it had hadn't have been for the other gentleman's car being there we'd have been somewhere else by now," said a shaken Mrs Davies.

"We were expecting to be wiped out."

Professor Ravi Sood of Australia's Balloon Launching Centre, in charge of the operation, expressed happiness that no one had been hurt in the gasbag mishap unpleasantness. However he said the boffins running the NASA-sponsored experiment were gutted.

"Ballooning, that's the way it happens on occasions but it is very, very disappointing. Gut-wrenching actually," said the prof.

There's video of the incident courtesy of ABC here. ®

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