National Geographic : 1957 Feb
burst out with a loud, incredulous, "What!" The explanation then occurred to us. Dr. Barr had been talking when the distress mes sage went out. He hadn't heard it. Again Lee described the situation, and this time I)r. Barr's unruffled voice requested in strument readings. Once more we had failed to communicate with him. "I cannot give them to you at this time," Lee replied. "I cannot give them to you. We are in an emergency situation. We hit 76.000 feet, and now we are descending rapidly. We are standing by to pass 70,000. We are buckled in with our seat belts. No shoulder harness. \Ve have our faceplates on but not down. We are rotating and have a decided elevator feeling. Passing 70.000 feet." Colleagues Note Rate of Fall While Lee paused for breath and to regulp his stomach, M~al transmitted. All stations. All stations. This is an emergency. An emergency situation. We can read our altitude. Please keel) track of it so you will know what our rate of descent is. We are coming down to 68.000 feet. Stand by. Mark! He continued calling off the altitudes, "marking" each as it passed. By then every one knew we were in real trouble. The elevator feeling lessened at 63.000 feet, then disappeared. This was confusing, for we had thousands of feet to fall before the chute could bite in.' Looking up, we saw the blessed balloon was still there and we became even more puzzled. If it had de veloped a rent, the polyethylene should be in tatters by now. Perhaps the electrically operated valve in the top of the balloon, used to release gas in descending, was open. But a check of the control panel showed the valve closed. We exchanged glances: there was no need for words. We had functioned as a team for most of a five-year period. The next move was apparent to both of us. Lee informed I)r. Barr that the Strato-Lab would dump )allast and explained our reason ing. We were convinced that we would have to release the balloon and use the cargo para chute at some lower altitude. But there was no reason to shock-load the chute with un necessary weight. So, as we passed 58.000 feet, Mal pressed the button and showered out 165 pounds of ballast, but with no immediate result. Mo- 279 Thomas J. A)lra('(o mhli, xNaional (U I Irapi Stall A Ghost in Infinity, Strato-Lab Floats at a Record 76,000 Feet The National Geographic photographer took this shot with a telephoto lens from an Air Force jet flying at 42,000 feet. Moments later he saw the balloon dropping some 4,000 feet a minute. An automatic valve for lumping excess helium failed, releasing a burst of gas. Clouds at 25,000 feet hid the sight from ground observers.