A Long Duration Balloon (LDB) is inflated near McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of Robyn Waserman, National Science Foundation
NSF, NASA Successfully Flight-Test New Balloon Over Antarctica
News story originally written on January 8, 2009
Scientists have created a smaller version of a special balloon that will circulate in the atmosphere above Antarctica to collect scientific information. They tested the small balloon this December and January, and because the test flight was successful they plan to develop a larger version that can be used for scientific research.
The test flight was launched Dec. 28, 2008, from McMurdo Station in Antarctica. During the summer in Antarctica, scientists can launch balloons from a site near McMurdo Station and recover them from almost the same spot weeks later, after the balloons have circled the continent one to three times. Constant daylight in Antarctica in the summer means the temperature doesn't change from day to night. This helps the balloon stay at almost the same altitude for a longer time.
The purpose of this flight was to test the durability and functionality of the scientific balloon's unique pumpkin-shaped design and its new material, a lightweight film about the thickness of ordinary plastic food wrap.
Now that the test flight is over, the team of scientists will need to make the pumpkin balloon used in the test large enough to lift a one-ton instrument to an altitude of 110,000 feet (33.53 kilometers or 20.83 miles). One day the balloon will carry large scientific experiments to the stratosphere for 100 days or more and will play an important role in providing access to the near-space environment for studying science and technology. It costs a lot less than a satellite and the scientific instruments flown on it can be retrieved and launched again.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. It is about one and a half times the size of the United States. Almost all of Antarctica is covered with a thick layer of ice called...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like while the tree was alive. This means that tree rings can tell us about climates of the past. Two...more
Earth's first life form may have developed between the layers of a chunk of mica sitting like a multilayered sandwich in primordial waters, according to a new hypothesis. The mica hypothesis, which was...more