NASA’s lost balloon recovered from Antarctica


New York: 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.

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,” NASA said in a statement on Saturday.

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.

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