Bal­loon sinks un­der sea

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS - MAR­JORIE COOK

Wanaka’s Nasa bal­loon has sunk to the bot­tom of the Pa­cific Ocean af­ter a leak forced a con­trolled sea land­ing on May 6.

It man­aged 12 days afloat in the strato­sphere col­lect­ing flight data for the Columbia Sci­en­tific Bal­loon Fa­cil­ity and images of cos­mic ray par­ti­cles for as­tro­physi­cists.

It is now in a se­cret sub­ter­ranean world about 321km south of Easter Is­land.

The Pa­cific Ocean is the big­gest and deep­est of Earth’s oceans, cov­er­ing 165.25 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres, at an av­er­age depth of 4280 me­tres.

More than 90 per­cent of the Pa­cific sea bed has yet to be ex­plored.

De­spite car­ry­ing state of the art sci­en­tific equip­ment, no images of the bal­loon’s splash down and de­scent can be ob­tained.

Sci­en­tists down­loaded 60GB of data but com­mu­ni­ca­tions from the bal­loon and pay­load stopped on im­pact with the ocean.

The unin­sured bal­loon and pay­load is worth sev­eral mil­lion dol­lars and can­not be re­cov­ered.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesman Jeremy Eg­gers could not pro­vide the cost of lost equip­ment.

But he said the pos­si­bil­ity of loss had been ac­cepted be­fore the op­er­a­tion launched.

The 2377kg sta­dium-sized bal­loon was ex­pected to have sunk rapidly.

BILL ROD­MAN

The Nasa bal­loon was in­flated and launched at Wanaka Air­port on April 25.

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