Like a lot of people, I first heard about Michel Fournier through last summer’s wonderful profile by Burkhard Bilger in the New Yorker. He’s obviously a fascinating man, but Bilger left it as open question whether he was some sort of lone genius, or Walter Mitty type of dreamer. It’s a fine line of course, but it’s an important distinction nonetheless.
At any rate, I kept an eye out through the fall for news of his anticipated jump, then it slipped my mind. He hove back into view a few months ago, as he finally seemed to have got everything in order — his training, his funding, and most importantly, the proper balloon.
I’ve been excited as all get out over the jump, and today’s failure made me really sad. I know this is difficult stuff he’s working on, and that to expect it to go perfectly the first, or even second or third time, is a lot to ask. But the longer this goes on, and the more the failures add up, the more I worry that if he does ever get off the ground, he’s going to kill himself.