Wanaka Airport could soon become a base for NASA if a test flight of a scientific balloon launch planned for March is successful.
If the test launch of the balloon into the upper atmosphere from Wanaka was successful, more would be launched to allow scientific data to be gathered.
The data would be used to investigate the origins of the universe, what was happening around the time of the big bang as well as the effects of cosmic rays on the atmosphere, the ozone layer and finding planets.
Wanaka appealed because of its position in the southern hemisphere, its small population and the fact its weather conditions are considered ideal for launching balloons.
When the balloon is inflated with 0.4 million cubic metres of helium gas on launch day, it will expand to the size of a rugby pitch.
Some have compared it in size to the Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The balloon is capable of carrying four tonnes of scientific equipment to an altitude of 33km and holding it there for 100 days.
The balloon was successfully launched on March 27th and was deemed as a success. It was airbourne for 32 days and had nearly circumnavigated the globe when it developed a leak. The super pressure ballooon was floatig over central Australia when it’s Texas based controllers detected a leak. It was brought down in a remote area near the border between Queensland and NSW. NASA staff were travellig to Australia to inspect the balloon carcass to investigate the leak and recover the ballooon and its 2268 kg payload of tracking and telementary systems which were used to monitor its position and health status.
The goals of the mission were achieved – to successfully launch at the 45 degrees south latitude and to remain airbourne for more than 10 days.
As a result of this successful mission NASA has confirmed that there will be another mission from Wanaka in April 2016. This time it will not be a test run as it will be carrying scientific research equipment.
View the launch from your computer: http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/newzealand/wanaka.htm
Learn more about the NASA Balloon Program: http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code820/
info on the NASA Balloon Program: http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code820/outreach_downloads.html
Learn about the NASA Super Pressure Balloon: http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code820/spb.html