Origins ANTARCTICA, Scientific Journeys from McMurdo to the Pole
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Balloon Over Antarctica, p.2

  the path of the LDB balloon  
The path of the LDB balloon, 5 days after launch. Click to enlarge.
Round and round she goes.
by Paul Doherty

December 26, 2001

After the balloon makes a complete circle (or two) of Antarctica it is commanded to drop TIGER via parachute to The Ice. A team goes out to recover the instrument so that it can be flown again in two years. TIGER has flown before in 1999. Phil Austen is in charge of recovering the Long Duration balloon payload. I dropped into his office and he immediately showed me photos of the current location of the balloon on his computer monitor. He gave me a website where I could watch the path of the balloon myself. The perfect balloon flight would return the balloon to the launching pad. However an excellent balloon flight returns the balloon to within a hundred miles of McMurdo, well within the range of a recovery helicopter. Phil recounts how sometimes the flights require the recovery team to fly twin otter aircraft to places where no one has ever landed before. These are exciting missions, full of hard work to recover the payload. And yet you can see in his eyes and hear in his voice that Phil is looking forward to getting out on the ice to recover the payload.

There are man other people involved in the long duration balloon and TIGER projects. I picked out three of them to introduce to you. To find out more about the NSFB balloons and about TIGER go to their websites.

One last note about perception. I saw the balloon slowly rise toward the stratosphere against the blue sky of the Antarctic. As it rose slowly and majestically the gas in the balloon expanded. After a while the balloon appeared to stop rising and to hang suspended in the sky. It was indeed still rising, however as it got farther away, it was growing in size in a way that made it appear to stand still. Once again perception played a role in science.

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