Mars technology on balloon to study the atmosphere

Apr 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: Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Major air pollution studies to converge over Denver

Jul 04, 2014

Two NASA aircraft are participating in field campaigns beginning this month in Colorado that will probe the factors leading to unhealthy air quality conditions and improve the ability to diagnose air quality ...

First LDSD test flight a success

Jun 30, 2014

NASA representatives participated in a media teleconference this morning to discuss the June 28, 2014 near-space test flight of the agency's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred off the co ...

NASA/NOAA water vapor animations over oceans

Jun 26, 2014

Knowing where water vapor is in the atmosphere is one of many factors forecasters use to identify weather features. The NASA/NOAA GOES Project has now created two new types of animations based on satellite ...

Recommended for you

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

3 hours ago

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

3 hours ago

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

20 hours ago

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

20 hours ago

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

Biomarkers of the deep

22 hours ago

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Spain is a unique geological site that has fascinated astrobiologists for decades. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in Spain's Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit ...

User comments : 0