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NASA's giant balloon sets a high-flying record

The space agency's 18.8-million-cubic-foot balloon remained aloft for over 46 days.

NASA's Super Pressure Balloon.

Despite putting a satellite in orbit around Jupiter earlier this week, NASA is also setting precedents back on planet Earth -- or at least a lot closer to it. The latest experiment conducted by the space agency's Balloon Program Office saw the second test flight of its Super Pressure Balloon set an airtime record of 46 days, 20 hours, and 19 minutes, finally touching solid ground again on July 2.

The SPB mission, which began on May 16, marked the first time one of the enormous balloons was carrying a payload, the University of Berkley's Compton Spectrometer and Imager, which managed to detect a gamma ray burst. It also completed a 14-day circumnavigation of the globe.

"We're extremely pleased with the flight time we achieved with this mission, far and away the longest mid-latitude flight of a NASA heavy-lift balloon to date," said Debbie Fairbrother, NASA's Balloon Program Office chief in a statement on the NASA website.

Even with the impressive 46-day flight time under the SPB's belt, NASA is still aiming for a balloon that can complete 100-day missions.