Lift Off! NASA launches second space balloon from Wānaka Airport

May 13, 2023

NASA managed to successfully launch the second of their super pressure balloons from Wānaka Airport just after midday today.

The super pressure balloon is carrying gear to help researchers learn more about space.

Specifically, researchers are banking on it helping them learn about ultrahigh energy cosmic rays and cosmogenic neutrinos.

Watch: today's successful launch.

 We got a bit lost with the big words too! So, earlier, we sent Crux reporter Lauren Pattemore to chat with one of the project leads, Professor Lawrence Wiencke, to decipher exactly what it is all about.

You can read some of the explanation here, but, simply, they are going after "the highest energy particles in the universe", and the balloon is carrying some very high-tech cameras and telescopes to enable them do that.

It is the second of two planned launches from the town this year.

The first went off without a hitch three weeks or so ago, and led to a great wee yarn about a group of fishing buddies discovering a missing piece of NASA's high-tech balloon floating in Lake Dunstan.

But it is not always that easy - in fact, astronomer Richard Massey, who was involved with launch one, said of the success on the day that it "never happens".

NASA says its first balloon continues to "perform brilliantly" and has been at float for more than 18 days.


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