SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ After two weeks of delays, a U.S.-Australian team hoping to be the first to fly a balloon around the world said it expects to take off on Monday, due to a calming of winds over its desert launch site.

Dangerously strong winds near the Outback town of Alice Springs had eased on Sunday, spokeswoman Sue Gascoigne said. The team was planning to attempt a launch early Monday morning, unless weather conditions worsened, she said.

The tentative launch time is between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. local time (3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST Sunday).

The ReMax International team has been plagued by technical and weather problems since it arrived in central Australia in late December.

Time is running out for the balloonists, who have until about Jan. 20 to catch the winds needed for the journey.

The team hopes to succeed where others have failed by flying 24 miles above the earth _ higher than any previous manned balloon flight.

The pilots, Denver real estate magnate Dave Liniger and Australian balloonist John Wallington, will hang below the balloon in a pressurized capsule.

Albuquerque journalist and project founder Bob Martin stepped down last week as the balloon's third pilot after the team learned it had miscalculated the amount of weight it could safely carry.