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NASA Successfully Launches A Super Balloon From Wanaka, New Zealand

First Posted: May 18, 2016 06:44 AM EDT
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After the fourth attempt, NASA successfully launched a super pressure balloon from Wanaka airport in New Zealand. Its mission is to perform near-space scientific investigations.

This was the fifth attempt after other attempts were thwarted because of bad weather, according to NASA. Dwayne Orr from Columbia Balloon Facility said that it almost a textbook launch wherein it was very nice and the winds cooperated. He further said that it started blowing down the runways as they expected and their meteorologist was spot on.

Janet Letchworth, NASA mission manager said that this is a very significant mission to NASA and the team has invested a lot to be there. They are very eager to have a very successful mission but not so anxious that they will rush it.

Robert Mullenax, NASA's meteorologist stated that Wanaka typically offers a very high probability of weather conditions conducive for launching NASA's scientific balloons. He further said that the issue for this campaign...for this year...is more focused on the impacts of El Nino weather pattern, which is also affecting weather globally, according to Stuff.Co.NZ.

NASA states that the 532,000 cubic meter (18.8 million cubic feet) super balloon is expected to travel around the globe about the southern hemisphere's mid-latitudes once every one to three weeks. On the other hand, it depends on the wind speeds in the stratosphere. The goal is to have the balloon airborne for over 100 days.

The balloon will be visible from the ground especially during sunrise and sunset, in the southern hemisphere's mid-latitudes; this includes South Africa and Argentina. It has an operational float altitude of 33.5 kilometers (20.8 miles). The balloon flight operations during a mission will be controlled by NASA's balloon experts at its Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.

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