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Balloonists fix leak, pressurize capsule

A European team of balloonists mended a small leak in their capsule Saturday, allowing them to climb in search of faster winds to speed them around the world.

British flight engineer Andy Elson crawled outside the Breitling Orbiter 2 vessel to close the leak in the rear hatch of the pilot's capsule.Elson had tried previously to fix the problem from inside.

Flight control center said with the repair, the capsule had now finally been pressurized. That let it climb to a cruising height of more than 20,000 feet.

The silver balloon was headed toward Greece and Turkey - far behind schedule due to technical problems and slow winds.

During its four-day journey, the three-man crew has averaged only 9 mph, flying at an altitude of between 10,000 and 16,500 feet.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard, Dutch pilot Wim Verstraeten and Elson hope to rise to a height of about 30,000 feet over Afghanistan on Monday to catch jet stream winds, which can reach speeds of between 120 mph and 192 mph.

They had hoped to complete their round-the-world trip in about 15 days. That now seems practically impossible.