Purpose of the flight and payload description

A new sensor designed to measure critical but previously unobserved components of the Earth's atmosphere. The Earth's climate is maintained by a balance between incoming solar radiation (light) at visible wavelengths and the radiation (light) emitted back to space by the Earth at invisible infrared wavelengths. Current NASA sensors observe the infrared radiation from the planet, but only to a wavelength of about 15 micrometers. A micrometer is one-millionth of a meter.

The goal of the FIRST project is to develop the technologies that will allow direct measurements of the infrared radiation leaving the Earth and its atmosphere at wavelengths longer than 15 micrometers out to as far as 100 micrometers. The portion of the infrared spectrum between 15 and 100 micrometers, which scientists refer to as the "far-infrared," has rarely been observed directly from space or from instruments on the ground or in aircraft.

In addition to FIRST, experiments from 41 schools representing 17 states were flown in a NASA Student Experiment Module. The experiments, in brick-size plastic containers inside two larger containers about the size of large briefcases, are looking at the effect of the flight environment on test articles such as materials, microscopic organisms and seeds.

Details of the balloon flight

Balloon launched on: 9/18/2006
Launch site: Scientific Flight Balloon Facility, Fort Sumner, (NM), US  
Balloon launched by: Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF)
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon  
Flight identification number: 559N
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 9/18/2006

External references

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