Plan to float giant banana over TX fizzles

SAN ANTONIO, TX "The banana plan is suspended. The whole attempt was to develop the idea of artworks in space," said Cesar Saez, 39, a Montreal-based artist known in Quebec for his public art.

"The project had a deadline. If the money comes in tomorrow, I might change my mind and we'll do it," he told the San Antonio Express-News for its Sunday online editions.

The plan to float a huge, inflated banana over Texas was announced in late 2006. It called for a launch near Hermosillo, Mexico, this fall.

Drifting eastward at about a 20-mile altitude, the banana would have been visible over Texas until it eventually disintegrated.

"I want to bring some humor to the Texas sky," Saez said at the time.

Mechanical engineer Manny Teran, whose Michigan company nearSpace Technology provided consulting, was among the early participants, but lost track of the project about six months ago.

"I'm not sure what happened," Teran said. "I don't think it was a hoax or a stunt to get publicity. This was absolutely a real project. We worked on high-level guidance ideas."

Saez said the project team even launched small prototype banana blimps from a site near Monterrey, Mexico, but they pulled the plug on the project after fund-raising efforts collected only about $400,000 of the estimated $1.5 million needed for the launch.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry offered a tongue-in-cheek reaction.

"From an artistic perspective, we're sad to see the banana split, but it looks like this idea turned out to be a bunch of hot air," Allison Castle said.

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