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Courtesy of NASA

Frogs in Space!?!
News story originally written on February 9, 1998

Some of you may remember the Muppet Show that hosted a segment named 'Pigs in Spaaaace!' Well, now people are talking about 'Frogs in Spaaaace!' It isn't real frogs people are talking about; this is NASA's program that will launch 11 rockets in 2 months...What are the details?

NASA will begin its rocket launching campaign February 12, 1998. All 11 of the rockets will be launched from Puerto Rico. The campaign has been named El Coqui after the native Puerto Rican frog which is of ecological and cultural significance.

The purpose of the Coqui program is to increase our understanding of space weather and its interaction with the upper atmosphere. "People tend to think that space is a quiet place with no activity. However, over the years we have come to realize that the contrary is true," said Mike Kelley, a professor at Cornell University and principal investigator for two of the rocket launches. The layers that El Coqui will investigate are the layers where radio, television and satellite communications get disrupted. So you see, this mission is very important!

Five of the rockets have payloads that carry the chemical trimethyaluminum (TMA). This chemical will be released in the ionosphere at an altitude between 50-93 miles. This chemical forms a cloud that will luminesce for 10-20 minutes. These clouds will be tracked to see where atmospheric turbulent layers occur. NASA has promised that this chemical, which has been a concern for local Puerto Ricans, is harmless.

The El Coqui project will work in combination with the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

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