Good heavens above
Nasa balloon takeoff appears imminent
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.