This is the 41st 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.
Near McMurdo Station, Antarctica
The bright sun is cold. Prismatic ice crystals suspended in air trace a circular rainbow of color around its light. I guess that would be better called an “icebow”.
A single red balloon about twice as big as a basketball goes up. It stays on a tight vertical track climbing skyward. This small sounding balloon tells the gathered scientists and helpers that winds are light and final launch conditions are good.
Team members assume their positions and draw in one last, deep collective breath. Someone mutters “showtime”. A short countdown in French is shouted.
Finally the sound of a huge zipper…barrrrriiiiippppp!
The balloon begins a steady rise straight up, pulling the risers tight and tearing away its restraints as it slips the surly bonds of Earth . Twisting skyward, its payload of science instruments rotate and ascend. Hands guide the pieces off the ground until they’re airborne. For a brief second, one of the scientists gets his legs entangled with the twisting risers. He is upended on to the ice, unharmed.
And so it goes with another launch of a Concordiasi long duration ballon. According to a team of French-led international researchers, the U.S. military’s logistical support in Antarctica helps enable scientists get to the bottom of climate change.
Philippe Cocquerez, of the French Space Agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), leads an international long-duration balloon project known as Concordiasi. Among other stated objectives, Concordiasi hopes to refine and improve satellite-based models of the conditions required to create polar stratospheric clouds (PSC). Formation of PSC is associated with atmospheric loss of ozone and widening of the so-called ozone hole.
The above video offers words from the project leader, and at 2:45, a front row look at the launch of the Concordiasi balloon.
 Apologies to John Gillespie Magee, Jr., author of the poem “High Flight”