"Tom has the scientific knowledge and I have the money," Forbes says, "so we consider each other essential."
There will be little room inside the gondola for exercise beyond shifting from standing to sitting to lying down on the cot-like canvas sling provided for each man. But they should not be bored, considering the vast array of complex scientific equipment they must monitor. From the moment Windborne lifts off and is carried into the jet stream until it sets down however many days later—presumably on the other side of the Atlantic—the demands upon both men will be continuous and enormous.
The real question is not whether Windborne can make the trip. The odds are excellent that she will. More pertinent is whether the command pilot can make it.
At 55 Forbes is apparently fit. He exercises daily in the gym that takes up much of a floor of the Forbes Building in New York, and between balloon races he spins around his hometown of Far Hills, N.J. or rides to his New York office on one of his many motorcycles. He still maintains a schedule that would prostrate many half his age, jetting from continent to continent the way others commute between railroad stations. But the pace is beginning to take its toll. His catnaps are more frequent. The limp acquired in World War II is more pronounced with fatigue. He drives himself like a 30-year-old man, but it is 25 years later, and time has not stopped even for Malcolm Forbes.
Moreover, just how well he will withstand the stresses of a period encapsulated in space is the one factor that none of his legions of engineers and scientists can predict: consideration of this human aspect is so conspicuously missing from the reams of material distributed to the press about the flight that the oversight seems almost deliberate. What about physiological and psychological factors?
"No problem at all," Forbes says. "The trip across country was probably far more arduous than this will be. As for mental strain, busyness eliminates most of the psychological stress. Lock me up in an empty cell on Devil's Island and I'd be crackers in 12 hours, but this is entirely different. And you can put up with anything if the rewards are great enough. The sense of achievement here is something we'll be able to measure hourly."
Forbes also brushes aside questions of personal safety, asserting that he is not a daredevil. "The odds of my making it across the Atlantic," he says, "are considerably better than those of a pedestrian making it across Park Avenue at rush hour.
"And besides," he adds, "I like being alive."