NASA to Study Cosmos with Stratospheric Balloon

Oct, 2020 - By SMI

NASA to Study Cosmos with Stratospheric Balloon

The stratospheric winds will carry ASTHROS around the South Pole in two or three loops, a flight will last for around 21 to 28 days.

Balloons may look like an old mode of transport, however, they are making a comeback for high-flying scientific instruments. Now, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to take its new infrared telescope, ASTHROS to the edge of space with the help of a stratospheric balloon. NASA will release a balloon the size of a football stadium to study the cosmos. The new ASTHROS mission will carry 2.5-meter (8.4-foot) telescope to the edge of space with a stratospheric balloon. The ASTHROS mission will be managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). 

The Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths mission is expected to be launched in December 2023 from the Antarctic. With far-infrared light, it will observe the cosmos. These wavelengths are blocked by the Earth's atmosphere, thus infrared observatories, such as Herschel, Spitzer, and the infrared space observatory, are space-based. The ASTHROS will spend around three weeks in the space and achieve several firsts along the way. Antarctica is the coldest region on this planet and has around 87% of the world's ice.

The ASTHROS sees light with longer wavelengths than what is visible to the human eye. Therefore, the ASTHROS will need to reach a height of around 24.6 miles (40 km or 130,000 feet), which is around four times more than commercial aircraft, observing light wavelengths blocked by Earth's atmosphere. The stratospheric winds will carry ASTHROS around the South Pole in two or three loops, a flight will last for around 21 to 28 days. When the mission is complete, an infrared telescope will detach from the balloon and a parachute will carry it safely to the ground. Moreover, it can be refurbished for reuse. According to NASA, it will achieve what orbital telescopes can.

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