NASA faces record num­ber of launch bids


NASA’s fifth at­tempt to launch its Wanaka su­per pressure bal­loon was can­celled on Easter Mon­day due to un­favourable winds.

The launch team will try again as soon as the fore­cast al­lows.

The bal­loon took off on its fifth at­tempt in 2016. In 2015, NASA achieved a dream sce­nario of launch­ing on the sec­ond at­tempt.

NASA com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesman Jeremy Eg­gers said wind speed and di­rec­tion at sur­face, lower lev­els and in the strato­sphere in­flu­enced launch de­ci­sions.

On Mon­day, the wind shifted to the west.

East­wardly winds at the sur­face and lower lev­els are key for launch, he said.

Cam­paign mis­sion man­ager Gabe Garde said the team was ‘‘as close as we’ve ever been’’ this year.

‘‘We took the pay­load out to the flight­line, con­nected the para­chute to the pay­load, and laid out part of the pro­tec­tive tarp . . . but the wind di­rec­tion sim­ply wouldn’t sup­port tak­ing the next steps of bring­ing the bal­loon out and be­gin­ning in­fla­tion op­er­a­tions.’’

The bal­loon will carry a sci­ence pay­load from the Univer­sity of Chicago and Colorado School of Mines 33km into the strato­sphere.

The bal­loon team hopes it will stay aloft for a record-break­ing 100 days be­fore com­ing to land in Ar­gentina.

Me­dia ad­vi­sories are is­sued be­fore at­tempts. At the time of go­ing to print it was not known if a launch would be pos­si­ble on Wednesday.

‘‘As close as we've ever been...’’

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