Super-Pressure Balloons Key to International Research Project [Dispatches from Antarctica]

Concordiasi Balloon launch near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Photo: Hailaeos Troy/NSF)

Concordiasi Balloon launch near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Photo: Hailaeos Troy/NSF)

This is the eighth entry in the Armed with Science series, Dispatches from Antarctica. The series features Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan’s first-hand experiences on OPERATION: DEEP FREEZE, the Defense Department’s support of National Science Foundation research in Antarctica.

4 October 2010:  McMurdo Station, Antarctica – International Science Cooperation.

“Projet scientifique…”  “S’il vous plaît répétez.” With any luck, I’ll post a video of the following encounter after we get subtitles added.

Sitting in the galley (a legacy name for the main dining room that harkens back to the days when the Navy was the dominant presence here), I notice an entire table of people speaking only French. While it’s not uncommon to have colleagues and visitors here from science agencies around the world, this is the first all-French table I’d seen.

Turns out these Francophone scientists and technicians are part of the international project known as Concordiasi. According to Cara Sucher, Manager of Laboratory Science at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, an international team of researchers led by the French space agency CNES (National Space Study Center) launched about 18 long-duration balloons near McMurdo Station to study atmospheric properties and stratospheric ozone.

These high-altitude balloons, capable of attaining, then maintaining, a level altitude, carried various instruments for scientific measurement of the atmosphere. As part of the international cooperation, scientists from the University of Wyoming and the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Earth Observing Laboratory in Boulder, CO, developed special instruments for the effort.

To learn more about this project, visit the project blog site.  Also, read about their work in the U.S. Antarctic Program’s online news publication The Antarctic Sun.

A part of our ongoing special discussion about international cooperation, Cara Sucher also provided the below photo showing an Australian Antarctic Division Airbus A319 offloading passengers as part of the first U.S. Antarctic Program main body flight to McMurdo on Sept. 23rd.

Concordiasi Balloon launch near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Photo: Hailaeos Troy/NSF)

Concordiasi Balloon launch near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Photo: Hailaeos Troy/NSF)

Concordiasi Balloon launch near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Photo: Hailaeos Troy/NSF)

Concordiasi Balloon launch near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Photo: Hailaeos Troy/NSF)

Australian Airbus-319 on the seasonal ice runway at McMurdo Station Antarctica. (Photo: Cara Sucher/NSF)

Australian Airbus-319 on the seasonal ice runway at McMurdo Station Antarctica. (Photo: Cara Sucher/NSF)

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  • http://www.pacafpixels.com The Rev

    Check out more comments and video on the mission here:

  • http://twitter.com/ArmedwScience Armed with Science

    The Rev, thanks for the comment. As you know, PACAF Pixels is reposting the Armed with Science content generated by Lt. Col. Vaughan. In addition to providing a general link to the blog (which is in our blogroll), would you mind providing links to the specific material not found on Armed with Science? The more we can share about the mission, the better. ~ John | AwS Team

  • Roc5151

    I was there for the first launch while I was there with VXE-6 naval support force. It was a wind less day. You could see it at 100,000 feet it grew so big in the assent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pamela-Whitman/100000588727424 Pamela Whitman

    Herztz, love reading your blog entries. Takes me back to my days @ GSFC/WFF and my environmental work on support to balloon projects @ McMurdo!

  • http://twitter.com/Winston80 Winston

    very cool

  • http://twitter.com/Quachen Christa Horvath

    Congratulations are amazing. Godspeed.

  • Dave

    Thank you for these blog posts. I worked in the USAP in the 90s, mostly at the Pole, and these posts bring back a lot of good memories and remind me of the great work being done on the ice

  • Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan

    Thanks for your comments Dave. The place is still as awe-inspiring as ever. Many of the faces have changed, but the dedication to advancing science and the human experience have not. A colleague of mine, Mr. Jerry Marty, was the NSF Construction Project Manager for the new South Pole Station. Jerry once told me that working in Antarctica never gets old, and he felt excited to wake up each day at the South Pole and work on the day’s projects.

  • Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan

    Pamela! So great to hear from you. I’m collaborating with a decent photographer here on a follow up to this story. With any luck, I’ll have more balloon launch photos and some new information about the research to post shortly. I’ll send you a direct email offline here shortly. Thanks for supporting this project! -Hz

  • Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan

    That must’ve been awesome. The thrill of supporting the science, as you and VXE-6 did so well over the decades, is only rivaled by having front row seats on occasion to watch the science happen as you’ve described. I’m sure the producers here would consider posting some images from the early days if you have any you’d care to share. Also, I’d invite you to take a look at the history part of the ODF mission description linked above and make sure we justly covered the NSFA and VXE-6 parts. Its only a summary, but its important to get it right. Thank you for writing in and thank you for your service. -Ed

  • Dave

    What a small world – I worked very closely with Jerry at the Pole. Enjoy your time on the ice! It’s one of the greatest experiences anyone can have.