NASA’s GUSTO balloon telescope has set a record for the longest stay in the air

NASA’s GUSTO balloon telescope has set a record for the longest stay in the air

As part of NASA’s Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) mission, the balloon with the telescope spent 57 days in the sky over the Earth’s South Pole. The flight became the longest of all the missions of the American space agency on high-capacity balloons.

The observatory started from the McMurdo station in Antarctica on December 31 last year. The balloon remained in the air for 57 days, 7 hours and 38 minutes.

The GUSTO mission is a telescope attached to a nearly 12 million m³ zero-pressure scientific balloon that has risen to an altitude of more than 38 km. As part of the project, NASA specialists mapped most of the Milky Way galaxy, including the galactic center, as well as its companion galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

NASA’s long-endurance balloon program allows researchers to launch advanced payloads into the stratosphere, giving them the ability to conduct ground-breaking space observations more frequently and at far less cost than conventional orbital missions, said NASA engineer Christopher Walker.

The observatory on the globe measured the emission of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen from the material between the stars so that scientists can better understand the life cycle of interstellar gas in the Milky Way. Such observations cannot be made with ground-based telescopes, because water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs the light of the atoms and molecules under consideration, preventing measurements.

Favorable weather conditions in the stratosphere and abundant solar energy in the Southern Hemisphere during the summer allowed GUSTO to set NASA’s record for longest balloon mission, previously held by the Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder, or SuperTIGER, launched in December 2012. The mission balloon was in the air for more than 55 days.

The GUSTO mission ended on February 26, when the balloon carrying the observatory landed safely in Antarctica. The aerostat for this program was developed by the Aerostar company.

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