Poppy launched from Wanaka

Central Otago Mirror - - OUT & ABOUT - MAR­JORIE COOK

Ahum­ble pa­per An­zac poppy has started a jour­ney around the world under a $1.6 mil­lion su­per pres­sure bal­loon, tucked into equip­ment that sends sci­ence data back to earth.

The poppy is a sym­bol of New Zealand’s na­tional day of re­mem­brance in New Zealand and Aus­tralia and was at­tached be­fore the An­zac Day launch at Wanaka Air­port, on April 25.

Nasa com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesman Jeremy Eg­gers said the poppy was tucked next to the bal­loon’s irid­ium, used to up­link or down­link data from the pay­load.

The mis­sion is de­signed to run 100 or more days, float­ing at 110,000 feet (33.5 kilo­me­tres) over the globe in the south­ern hemi­sphere’s mid-lat­i­tude band.

Nasa bal­loon pro­gramme chief Deb­bie Fair­brother was de­lighted with the team’s third suc­cess­ful launch in as many years.

‘‘I’m very proud of the team that de­liv­ered us to this point and I’m hope­ful that third time’s the charm for re­al­is­ing 100 days of flight,’’ she said.

The Nasa team want to break a 54-day flight record for a su­per pres­sure bal­loon.

The pre­vi­ous two flights from Wanaka ended early.

The main ob­jec­tive is to val­i­date the bal­loon tech­nol­ogy, but it is car­ry­ing a cos­mic ray tele­scope as a sci­ence ‘‘mis­sion of op­por­tu­nity’’ for the In­ter­na­tional Ex­treme Uni­verse Space Observatory.

The pro­ject’s lead sci­en­tist, Pro­fes­sor An­gela Olinto, said the tele­scope was search­ing for cos­mic par­ti­cles.

‘‘The ori­gin of these par­ti­cles is a great mys­tery that our pi­o­neer­ing mis­sion will help to solve. Do they come from mas­sive black holes at the cen­tre of gal­ax­ies? Tiny, fast-spin­ning pul­sars? Or some­where else?’’

Deputy prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Lawrence Wiencke said the in­ter­na­tional sci­ence team was very ex­cited to see the cos­mic ray flu­o­res­cence de­tec­tor lifted to sub­or­bital space.

‘‘This bal­loon will give us a great view, and we are hop­ing for a record flight. We would es­pe­cially like to thank the Nasa and Columbia Sci­en­tific Bal­loon Fa­cil­ity teams for their pa­tience, hard work, and ex­ten­sive ex­per­tise that made this launch suc­cess­ful.’’

The bal­loon may be vis­i­ble from the ground at sunrise and sun­set, in the south­ern hemi­sphere’s mid-lat­i­tudes, such as Ar­gentina and South Africa.

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