Saturday, May 24

Michel Fournier's team members are early risers

It seems that for all potential launches in the past, morning proved the most promising time. I am not an expert at this, but there is always this moment when the winds die down at the end of the night, a time which lends itself to launching these giant balloons. Pictured above is the original launch crane. You see how it is holding Michel's pressurized gondola. We will talk about the actual launch process later on.

Meanwhile, in the original hangar, team members prepare for the launch.



In order for Michel's world records to be officialized, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) had sent Michel Jara and Therese Tercier (right) to act as judges in 2002. They are seen here inspecting the measurement instruments. Therese is back in Saskatchewan again this year. She told me two days ago that she hopes this is the right attempt for Michel.


As the launch appears imminent, the huge wooden crate containing the balloon is pulled out of the hangar.


André Turcat has an early morning conversation with Michel.


The mood remains jovial even as it appears the wind is rising to levels which might prevent the anticipated launch attempt.


At Michel's request I had made arrangements for area emergency personnel to be on standby.


Finding a helicopter to get to Michel quickly after the jump proved a little more challenging. Fortunately, the ever resourceful Thierry Reverchon managed to track one down at the last minute.


Michel and I posing for the occasion.


It looks like this morning will not be the one. If you look closely in the background above the truck pulling the balloon, you will see that the small tethered balloons are pulling away because of the wind.


Here we see Dr. Paul Vanuxen (left) looking on alonside Michel. he played an important part in developing the scientific contributions of Michel's project.


It looks like the gondola is heading back to the hangar this time.

Le Grand Saut team members enjoy themselves at Saskatoon's Calories restaurant in 2002

These photos were taken the night I met Michel in the spring of 2002 at Calories. I heard a group of boisterous French folks behind us at a nother table. Michel charmed us with his enthusiasm. Pretty soon, I had been recruited as a Grand Saut volunteer team member.


Pictured here beside Michel is Christian Crye (left), head of Capucine Films, the company which owns the broadcast rights to Michel Fournier's Le grand Saut and has supported Michel's efforts since he undertook to bring the Super Jump to Canada.

Some background on Michel Fournier's 2002 balloon launch attempt


The capsule discretely awaits launch bearing its human payload in a hangar a the original launch site near Saskatoon.

Michel is seen here with with French photographer Rémi Benali (left) who was mandated by Gamma agency to document Michel's Super Jump.

Everyone knows by now that this has been a difficult and costly long journey for Michel Fournier. Michel's 2002 launch attempt was his first Saskatchewan-based venture. Having found a qualified stratospheric balloon launch team in the Saskatoon area, and a launch location that could be used, the Super Jump team was filled with optimism as the project sponsors arrive from France.

Project godfather Jean-François Clervoy (right) is a French astronaut who has flown three times on the Space Shuttle.

André Turcat (left) was the first/test pilot of the famous Concorde

Time for photo ops!

A smoke making machine makes for some pretty pictures.


....as does the legendary Saskatchewan sunset with a round bale in the background to the left.

Why is it so difficult to give a precise helium balloon launch date for Michel Fournier?

Ricardo Valera Correa is the former chief of launches for the Brasillian space agency. He is Michel's launch director. It is his job to determine when the best opportunity for a safe launch is. Ricardo uses smaller helium balloons like this one to gauge wind speed of at ground level. The balloon is then let go and is tethered to the ground and rises to a few hundred feet. How much deviation from the vertical there is, gives a good indication of the wind speed over a range of altitudes, therefore providing valuable information to the team.

People often ask why it is so difficult to give a exact time for the launch? Some say that it is easy for Michel to communicate to the public that the launch is delayed because of the weather, but in reality the weather is a huge factor. The launch windows in spring and fall are very real. The challenge is very often simply that winds on the ground prevent safe deployment of the balloon. Launch team members always monitor weather conditions. They will determine when the best time to launch is through a variety of means.