Branson Relieved of Hot Air

05/26/1999 at 12:00 AM EDT

China on Tuesday ordered Richard Branson's round-the-world hot-air balloon to land after the craft crossed into its territory without permission, the balloon's London control center said. "They have asked us to land, but it's not possible immediately because you cannot land a balloon at night," a spokesman told Reuters, describing the situation as "life-threatening." Branson and his former rival, American Steve Fossett, crossed the Chinese border shortly before midnight GMT on the fourth day of their bid to achieve the elusive circumnavigation world record.

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