Mars technology on balloon to study the atmosphere

April 16, 2008
Mars technology on balloon to study the atmosphere

“From Mars to the Earth and back” is the theme when the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF), the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and University of Bern in Switzerland build and launch a mass spectrometer on a stratospheric balloon from SSC’s operational facility Esrange Space Center in Kiruna.

The project is called MEAP (Mars Environment Analogue Platform) and will be carried out during the summer of 2008. MEAP is a test mission to try out new technology (the mass spectrometer P-BACE, Polar Balloon Atmospheric Composition Experiment), which has primarily been developed to conduct a number of measurements on Mars during forthcoming missions. The test project MEAP will be carried out in the Earth’s stratosphere, an environment that has many similarities to the conditions at the surface of Mars.

Prof. Stas Barabash at IRF emphasises the scientific significance of the project: “It is an exciting project that will play an important role in the development of similar instruments for planetary and atmospheric research, particularly on Mars but even on Venus. The mission will also strengthen the collaboration between the two largest space organisations in Kiruna, IRF and SSC.”

The MEAP project will even help to extend the range of balloon flights from the Esrange Space Center. Circumpolar flights during the winter, when the winds in the stratosphere blow from the West, have been performed from Esrange Space Center for many years. Winter flights involve polar darkness which is advantageous for certain measurements that are sensitive for extraneous light. Now it is time to offer the same thing during the summer months when the winds in the stratosphere blow from the East. Summer flights occur during a period with midnight sun when the sun can provide renewable energy for the experiment via solar panels, something which is often necessary during long flights.

If all goes according to plan the balloon with fly with the help of the summer polar vortex at a height of 30-40 kilometres and land about a week later in Canada or Alaska. Dr Olle Norberg, manager at Esrange, SSC, has a strong belief in this summer’s flight and looks forward to the time when these flights can also be extended further, into circumpolar flights round the North Pole. That will be the next step in the development of balloon activities. SSC is already working to obtain permission to fly over Russia.

“Circumpolar flights are in great demand by scientists from around the world,” says Dr Olle Norberg. “Scientists want to perform longer measurements both during the summer and the winter. The opportunity to fly balloons right round the North Pole would in all likelihood greatly increase the number of balloon flights from Kiruna.”

Source: Swedish Space Corporation

Explore further: NASA-funded balloon mission begins fourth campaign

Related Stories

NASA-funded balloon mission begins fourth campaign

August 17, 2016

The BARREL team is at Esrange Space Center near Kiruna, Sweden, launching a series of six scientific payloads on miniature scientific balloons. The BARREL team launched the first balloon of this campaign - the fourth for ...

Recommended for you

Rosetta captures comet outburst

August 25, 2016

In unprecedented observations made earlier this year, Rosetta unexpectedly captured a dramatic comet outburst that may have been triggered by a landslide.

ALMA finds unexpected trove of gas around larger stars

August 25, 2016

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) surveyed dozens of young stars—some Sun-like and others approximately double that size—and discovered that the larger variety have surprisingly ...

35 years on, Voyager's legacy continues at Saturn

August 25, 2016

Saturn, with its alluring rings and numerous moons, has long fascinated stargazers and scientists. After an initial flyby of Pioneer 11 in 1979, humanity got a second, much closer look at this complex planetary system in ...

Rocky planet found orbiting habitable zone of nearest star

August 24, 2016

An international team of astronomers including Carnegie's Paul Butler has found clear evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System. The new world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.