Good heav­ens above

Nasa bal­loon take­off ap­pears im­mi­nent

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By MAR­JORIE COOK

De­spite a false start on Mon­day, Nasa’s bal­loon launch from Wanaka is likely to go ahead this week.

For the first time in a week full of post­pone­ments, the Nasa team pre­pared to launch an al­most $1.6 mil­lion bal­loon on Mon­day morn­ing but it was can­celled just af­ter 8.30am due to wrong sur­face winds, dis­ap­point­ing the small crowd gath­ered at Wanaka Air­port.

Mission boss Deb­bie Fair­weather said to­day would be the first likely op­por­tu­nity but con­di­tions could be bet­ter later in the week.

"We had a test run and it was a no show.’’

It was frus­trat­ing, Fair­brother said. But: "we are used to this. It is part of the na­ture of our busi­ness.’’

Cam­paign manager Dwayne Orr said di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed winds made it too un­safe "for the health and safety of the bal­loon’’.

Con­di­tions had to be per­fect and he was not feel­ing frus­trated.

"Wel­come to bal­loon­ing!’’ he told the me­dia and coun­cil of­fi­cers who had been wait­ing at Wanaka Air­port since 6am. Orr said he was ex­cited about Wanaka’s weather pat­terns this week.

"There is no rea­son to do this to­day when we know later in the week we can get it,’’ he said.

On Mon­day there were south easterly winds at the sur­face and nor­west­erly winds at 450 feet. They were com­pletely op­posed, so there was no point in­flat­ing the bal­loon.

"We don’t want to de­stroy it,’’ Orr said.

At one launch in Swe­den, they waited for a month and a half and the team did 24 early morn­ing starts in a row be­fore con­di­tions were right.

That is not likely to hap­pen in Wanaka, Fair­brother said..

The cost of the bal­loon is so high - val­ued at about $1.6 mil­lion - is such that they do not want to get it wrong.

Even if the bal­loon is in­flated and they still de­cide not to fly, they will not repack the bal­loon and try again, Fair­brother said.

The bal­loon mission is a test flight to see how long it will stay in the at­mos­phere.

The team are hop­ing to break a 54 day flight record.

Cam­paign manager Dwayne Orr said it was hoped the bal­loon would stay in the air 100 days.

If suc­cess­ful, the team is likely re­turn to Wanaka next year to launch science re­search mis­sions

Road clo­sures will be put in place on launch day.

The public will be ad­vised by Ra­dio Wanaka bul­letins.


Look­ing sky­ward: front, Wanaka air­port manager Ralph Fe­gan and Queen­stown Air­port con­sul­tant Dave Park; rear South­ern Air pi­lots Blair Rob­son and Will Plun­kett and Queen­stown Air­port air­side op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer Chris John­ston.

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