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Scientists find NASA’s lost football-field-sized balloon from Antarctica

Scientists have found NASA's lost field-football-size balloon with a telescope in Antarctica after a year from its flight

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Aerial View of NASA. Wikimedia
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New York, Feb 25, 2017: Scientists have recovered a lost football-field-sized balloon with a telescope hanging beneath it from Antarctica after a year of its flight.

According to the US space agency NASA, the balloon floated 39 kms above the Antarctic continent for 12 days in January 2016 until scientists sent the pre-planned command to cut the balloon.

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The telescope parachuted to the ground in the Queen Maud region of Antarctica where it remained on the ice for an entire year.

“The scientists did quickly recover the data vaults from the NASA-funded mission, called GRIPS (Gamma-Ray Imager/Polarimeter for Solar flares), but due to incoming winter weather they had to leave the remaining instruments on the ice and schedule a recovery effort for the following year,” NASAsaid in a statement on Saturday.

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The instruments were finally recovered in January this year when it was warm and safe enough for scientists to go there.

“Despite sitting on the ice for a year, no snow had made it into the electronics. The cryostat instrument, which houses the GRIPS detectors, seemed in great condition, and we’re hoping to use some of the instruments again,” said Hazel Bain, a solar physicist on the GRIPS team.

GRIPS is a helium balloon-borne telescope designed to study high-energy particles generated by solar flares and help scientists better understand what causes these giant eruptions on the sun, which can send energy toward our planet and shape the very nature of near-Earth space.

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GRIPS is a NASA-funded project largely designed, built and tested by the University of California-Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory. (IANS)

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NASA: No contact Made With Storm-Hit Mars Rover, Till Now

Because Opportunity runs on solar energy, scientists had to suspend science activities to preserve the rover's batteries.

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NASA said no response has been received from the rover as of July 18. Flickr

 NASA is yet to make contact with its Mars Opportunity Rover ever since a massive storm started on the Red Planet in June.

Based on the longevity of a 2001 global storm, NASA scientists estimate it may be September before the haze has cleared enough for Opportunity to power up and call home, the US space agency said this week.

Scientists first observed a smaller-scale dust storm on May 30. By June 20, it had gone global.

For the Opportunity rover, that meant a sudden drop in visibility from a clear, sunny day to that of an overcast one.

Because Opportunity runs on solar energy, scientists had to suspend science activities to preserve the rover’s batteries.

NASA said no response has been received from the rover as of July 18.

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The nearly 15-year-old rover is not out of the woods yet as it could take weeks, or even months, for the dust to start settling. Pixabay

Luckily, all that dust acts as an atmospheric insulator, keeping nighttime temperatures from dropping down to lower than what Opportunity can handle.

But the nearly 15-year-old rover is not out of the woods yet as it could take weeks, or even months, for the dust to start settling.

When the skies begin to clear, Opportunity’s solar panels may be covered by a fine film of dust. That could delay a recovery of the rover as it gathers energy to recharge its batteries. A gust of wind would help, but is not a requirement for a full recovery, NASA said.

While the Opportunity team waits in earnest to hear from the rover, scientists on other Mars missions have gotten a rare chance to study this storm.

Also Read-Survival Of Mars Rover Is Under Threat Due To A sandstorm

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Odyssey, and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiters are all tailoring their observations of the Red Planet to study this global storm and learn more about Mars’ weather patterns.

Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover is studying the dust storm from the Martian surface, the US space agency added. (IANS)