ALICE SPRINGS, Australia (Reuters) - An attempt to boldly circle the earth in a balloon flying on the edge of space was put off for at least five days on Sunday because of high winds at the launchpad in outback Australia. The lift-off was originally scheduled for December 27th, but has been postponed repeatedly because the giant balloon — designed to avoid weather problems by cruising at a height of 39 km — is vulnerable to winds at launch. "The next possible launch date is Friday, January 8," said Sue Gascoigne, a spokeswoman for Team RE/MAX, the Australian-U.S. team preparing the balloon attempt. Gascoigne said a low pressure zone was heading from the north towards the launch pad at Alice Springs, bringing higher winds to Australia‘s dusty "red centre" and preventing a lift-off as earlier planned, on Monday. The team is aiming to become the first to circle the earth non-stop in a balloon. Two of their rivals, Britain‘s Richard Branson and American Steve Fossett were plucked from the sea off Hawaii last week as bad weather forced them to abort a similar round-world attempt. No other team has yet attempted to fly so high, at the very edge of the stratosphere where atmospheric pressure will be only 1/250th of that at ground level and crew members will have to wear Russian space suits. The balloon will be 270 metres high at launch — about the same as a 40-storey building — before rounding out with helium. Gascoigne said on Sunday that winds at that height were currently 12 knots, more than the balloon could handle. The balloon is made of polyethylene only marginally thicker than lunch wrap with 178 supporting straps down to an aluminium gondola — explaining its vulnerability. The gondola was originally going to carry three balloonists, Australian John Wallington and Americans Dave Liniger and Bob Martin. But the team said at the weekend that a band of extreme cold temperate at about 20,000 metres could jeopardise the mission unless one of the three men remained behind. Liniger said additional external ballast may be required to increase the balloon‘s ascent through the cold band, but extra weight could not be added to the overall payload — meaning that one of the pilots would have to miss the trip. The three are due to decide between themselves who misses the trip and gave no hints on Sunday who would be chosen. The trip is expected to take 18 days and will return the balloon to Australia.