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Balloon Mission by NASA May Lead to Improved Weather Forecasting

The waves play major roles in transferring energy from the lower atmosphere to the mesosphere

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The images of a thin group of seasonal electric blue clouds on the cusp of our atmosphere captured by a new NASA balloon mission may lead to improved weather forecasting, the US space agency has said.

Data from these clouds, known as noctilucent clouds or polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs), may help scientists better understand turbulence in the atmosphere, as well as in oceans, lakes and other planetary atmospheres, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

The NASA long-duration balloon mission observed these clouds over the course of five days at their home in the mesosphere.

Scientists have just begun to analyse the photos captured by the mission, the statement added.

NASA
NASA balloon mission captures electric blue clouds. (IANS)

“From what we’ve seen so far, we expect to have a really spectacular dataset from this mission,” said Dave Fritts, principal investigator of the PMC Turbo mission at Global Atmospheric Technologies and Sciences in Boulder, Colorado.

“Our cameras were likely able to capture some really interesting events that we hope will provide new insights into these complex dynamics,” Fritts added.

NASA’s PMC Turbo mission launched a giant balloon on July 8 to study PMCs at a height of 50 miles above the surface.

For five days, the balloon floated through the stratosphere from its launch at Esrange, Sweden, across the Arctic to Western Nunavut, Canada.

During its flight, cameras on board the balloon captured six million high-resolution images filling up 120 terabytes of data storage — most of which included a variety of PMC displays, revealing the processes leading to turbulence, NASA said.

Noctilucent clouds coalesce as ice crystals on tiny meteor remnants in the upper atmosphere.

NASA
NASA’s PMC Turbo mission launched a giant balloon on July 8 to study PMCs at a height of 50 miles above the surface. Flickr

These clouds are affected by what is known as atmospheric gravity waves — caused by the convecting and uplifting of air masses, such as when air is pushed up by mountain ranges.

The waves play major roles in transferring energy from the lower atmosphere to the mesosphere.

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“This is the first time we’ve been able to visualise the flow of energy from larger gravity waves to smaller flow instabilities and turbulence in the upper atmosphere,” Fritts said.

“At these altitudes you can literally see the gravity waves breaking — like ocean waves on the beach — and cascading to turbulence,” Fritts added. (IANS)

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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)