NASA’s Super-TIGER Balloon Breaks Records Over Antarctica

NASA’s Super-TIGER balloon shattered records while collecting data over Antarctica.

The science balloon broke two flight duration records while carrying an instrument that detected 50 million cosmic rays.

The Super-TIGER (Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder) balloon launched on December 8 from the Long Duration Balloon site near McMurdo Station, reports The Sacramento Bee.

The massive balloon remained in the air for 55 days, one hour, and 34 minutes. It sailed along at 127,000 feet, more than four times the height of most commercial airliners.

It was brought down on Friday at the end of its mission, which was managed by Washington University of St. Louis. The Super-TIGER broke the record for longest flight by a balloon of its size on January 24, when it passed 46 days.

The team was also able to break another record. It became the longest flight for any heavy-lift scientific balloon, including NASA’s Long Duration Balloons. NASA notes that Vernon Jones, NASA’s Balloon Program Scientist, stated:

“Scientific balloons give scientists the ability to gather critical science data fora long duration at a very low relative cost.”

During its time in the air, the science balloon gathered so much data that scientists will spend two years going through it. Dr. Bob Binns, the Super-TIGER mission’s principal investigator, stated:

“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.”

The balloon carried a new instrument meant to measure rare elements heavier than iron that exist among the high-energy rays that bombard Earth from elsewhere in our galaxy. The information gathered by the balloon may help scientists understand where these elements are produced, as well as how they achieve their high energies.

[Image via Super-TIGER Facebook]