Launch campaign underway on Antarctica - 11/22/2011
Williams Field, McMurdo Station.- Two scientific teams from the United States along with the staff of NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) in charge of launch operations arrived in early November to the long duration balloon launch facility located in Williams Field Airport, close to the McMurdo Antarctic Station. This season's campaign will include two launches.
The first mission in the launch row is CREST (Cosmic Ray Electron Synchrotron Telescope) devoted to measure the flux of electrons at very high energies, in a region that has not yet been explored by other instruments. It is a cooperative development carried out by the Indiana University along with the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, University of Minnesota and the Northern Kentucky University. A first proof of concept mission took place in May 2009 over Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and the upcoming mission will include the fully developed instrument in a long duration balloon flight for the first time.
At right can be seen an image of the integration work of the instrument being done inside one of the high bay buildings of the program in Williams Field. It was taken from "Astroparticle physics in Antarctica" a blog published almost daily by Scott Nutter, a member of the CREST team and Professor of Physics at Northern Kentucky University.
The second mission to be performed will be the launch of the STO (Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory) an experiment designed to study the lifecycle of the Interstellar Medium. During the round the pole trip STO will survey large dense molecular clouds in the southern sky of the Milky Way. The instrument was built under the collaboration of the University of Arizona, the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Arizona State University, Oberlin College, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and the University of Maryland from United States along with the University of Cologne from Germany. STO also was flown in a short duration mission in 2009 from New Mexico. A day to day chronicle from the STO side can be obtained visiting the mission official blog.