Apollo XIX

Towards Lonely Heights

This year Fons Oerlemans and the British-Dutch ex-marine, mountaineer and parachutist Rob Hughes will ascend to an altitude of at least 131,000 ft (40.000 m) in a special balloon.

In 1994, Fons started the development of a special balloon project. It was his idea to realize a solo high altitude balloon flight and make a 40,000-meter high parachute jump.

Again, he was the first to arrive at the idea of breaking a special long-standing world record.

This time he wanted to honor Nicolas Piantanida who, in 1966, set an unofficial altitude world record for balloons by reaching an amazing altitude of 37,759 meters. But Nicolas was unable to make his intended space jump because icing prevented him from disconnecting his pressure suit's oxygen hose from the gondola's main tank. However, he did manage to return to earth safely.

The official balloon altitude record (34,690 meter) has stood for the past 41 years, ever since Malcolm Ross established it in 1961.

Fons had designed and built a sound, one-person space gondola, and an American scientific balloon builder, was prepared to construct a giant, fragile envelope to lift him into space.

However, in a later stage a change of company policy forced the balloon manufacturer to cancel the order. A setback for Fons but he immediately started the development and construction of the giant envelope himself. Twice he had to change his main goal and found a companion (Rob Hughes) to realize the 'Apollo 19 Project'.

The target is to set the intended high altitude ballooning records and if possible to make a jump from space to realize the longest delayed drop.

Launch Balloon Ross-Prather 1961
Gulf of Mexico

Rob and Fons in front of "APOLLO 19" gondola 2000