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Published:February 9th, 2013 15:36 EST
NASA`s Super-Tiger Science Balloon Breaks Altitude Flight Record

NASA`s Super-Tiger Science Balloon Breaks Altitude Flight Record

By Ron G Anselm

"To feel as free as a bird in flight is a feeling everyone should experience once in their life; to feel as free as a balloon in flight is a feeling NASA scientist experience many times in their life."  Anselm, R.)

If you grew up in the 1960s and 1970s era of our culture then you remember that old song (can`t remember what song artist or group wrote it) where part of the lyrics went, "Up, Up and away in my beautiful , my beautiful balloon", well, you know the rest; every time I heard that song on the radio it kind of took me to a place where I felt free as a bird in flight where if you were a bird soaring the sky, wings fully spread, gliding as if you were a piece of free-floating paper in the wind, and going wherever you wanted without traffic, crowded city streets, or the noisy atmosphere of the city is a feeling full of content and joy.

NASA scientists experience this scenario many times in their career as a scientist because scientist use balloons of many shapes and sizes to collect critical information about many things the world of science throws at us to study and learn more about.

On a recent NASA mission one of their science balloons broke two flight duration records while flying over Antarctica carrying a special data-collecting instrument. The Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder or Super-Tiger balloon as it is known as spent fifty-five days, one-hour, and thirty-four minutes high in the sky at 127,000 feet breaking the record by four times the altitude a commercial jet-liner could fly at.

One reason scientist use balloon to collect data and information is one, they can stay in flight longer than a vehicle that uses fuel because they are not going to run out of fuel so with this it is also much cheaper without having the high-cost of fuel to support any NASA science vehicle that needs an engine to lift-off and stay in flight. Second balloons can stay up longer. Again, they won`t run out of fuel and don`t need much maintenance to run. And third with the resource of being able to say in flight at long periods of time they can collect a boat load of data.

Vernon Jones who is NASA`s Balloon scientist shed a little insight on this by saying, "Scientific balloons give scientists the ability to gather critical science data for a long duration at a very low relative cost." (Jones, V.)

The Super-Tiger balloon was able to collect lots of data and also detected fifty-million cosmic rays. The instrument the balloon is carrying is a new instrument that NASA is using to measure rare elements heavier than iron among the flux of high-energy cosmic rays that rain down on Earth from elsewhere in our Milky Way galaxy. The rays that bombard Earth are full of energetic atomic nuclei and this information that was collected will help scientist in understanding where these energetic atomic nuclei are produced and how they achieve very high energies.

With the benefit of science balloons being able to stay up in the air collecting data for long durations of time the recently collected information gathered by the Super-Tiger balloon will take NASA scientist at least two-years to thumb through and analyze completely.

Sounds like all the data I had to analyze and decipher through on my Business Management Accounting final in college. It only took me three days to finish not two-years like it will take NASA to organize and understand in a mechanical sequence of the data recently collected. What a ton of data to have to go through and then have to understand each piece of data collected to be able start forming hypothesis of the what, how and why that keeps the minds of NASA scientist motivated and wanting more.

Dr. Bob Bins who is the principal investigator of the Super-Tiger balloon mission added a little more insight on the mission by stating, This has been a very successful flight because of the long duration which allowed us to detect large numbers of cosmic rays. The instrument functioned very well." (Bins, B.)

With any moving object in flight there has to be a power-source to be able to move and stay in motion. In the mechanical world it is the internal-combustion engine in the balloon world it is prevailing winds. In the Antarctic there a great prevailing wind patterns. The launch site takes advantage of anticyclone, or counter-clockwise, winds circulating from east to west in the stratosphere there. This circulation and the sparse population work together to enable long-duration balloon flights at altitudes above 100,000 feet. (nasa.com)

The sparse population being the free space of flight. There are no heavy traffic, angry cab drivers shaking their fists at you (if you`re driving in New York city) as you cut them off to make your next lane change, or little old ladies or men that forgot to wear their glasses and are trying to cross the street as the light turns red and the cross walk sign says "DON`T WALK " (they can`t read the "Don`t Walk" sign without their glasses on) so you end slamming on your brakes to avoid taking them out, no if you`re a balloon in flight and especially over 100,000 feet up; the air is thin and cool, the noise if nil to none, and the freedom of space is as abundant as coffee shops are in Seattle; there is no greater feeling than the feeling of freedom and NASA will continue to keep the feeling of freedom alive as they continue to launce their fleet of science balloons to study air space where the average astronaut cannot go.

                                                                             Reference

NASA`S SUPER-TIGER BALLOON BREAKS RECORDS WHILE COLLECTING DATA

(http://www.wff.nasa.gov/balloons) Retrieved 2013.

Speaking of high altitudes and balloons staying in the air for long durations, check out and buy your copy of my next book titled, Our Grand Ol` National Past Time on the complete game of Major League baseball. You can read about how some of the past power-hitters of old launched baseballs with one swing of the bat where no hitter ever took a baseball before. Hitters like Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, and Dave Kingman and many others were the science balloons of baseball of the past now you can read about some of their towering shots that left the crowd at the ball game in shock and awe after hitting those long and towering home runs. My manuscript is now done with the editing stage and is now going to the layout stage next. I will update you where you can buy your copy of my book when I know from my publisher.