Friday, February 01, 2008

Lost Distance Balloon

A Long Distance Balloon in front of the sun.

One of the major science experiments we have had down here the past few years are NASA's Long Distance Balloon (LDB) experiments. We launched three balloons this year and I believe the final one, CREAM, was retrieved yesterday after 32 days in flight. It was collecting data on ultra high energy cosmic rays over the elemental range from protons (If you can explain that in laymen terms, please do). It weighed 4,141 lbs. In general, the balloons can be as large as 1.5 football fields. I believe the longest balloon flight ever was 42 days.

At launch, the payload is the white box and solar panels attached to the crane on the left. The orange and white tanks should be helium to fill up the balloon.

When I was on my flag pulling trip, we got to see the first balloon launch from a distance. We could see it rising for hours because it travels up to around 125,000 ft. It was pretty amazing. This particular balloon orbited the continent twice so we also got to see is pass over town again about twenty days later. Amazing.

An LDB launch in the distance the day of my boondoggle.

A map of the path that the balloon took these past 32 days.

A lot of the science they are doing is beyond me, so I am just going to provide you with a link to their webpage. MikeLo, any chance you work with any of the people on that project? Ellie was on a different NASA project that worked with robots so I don't think they are related. Whoever these guys are, they work hard. When they finally get ready to launch, they need specific conditions to launch. If they think they are going to have them, they stay out at the launch pad and hope. I think some of them were up over 24 hours waiting for the right conditions and they didn't always come so they had to scrap it for another day. There was a huge sigh of relief from this group when their balloons were finally airborne.

Cream in front of Mt. Erebus.

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