NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory makes a turn over Pine Island Bay in the Amundsen Sea on as it heads back up the glacier for another mapping run during Operation Ice Bridge's third science flight. (NSERC/NASA photo / Jane Peterson) NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory returned to its base at NASA's Dryden Flight Operations Center in Palmdale, Calif., Nov. 24, ending this fall's Operation Ice Bridge science campaign to survey and map glaciers, sea ice and ice sheets on Antarctica.
The aircraft departed Santiago, Chile, early Nov. 24 with air sampling sensors collecting data en route to California. Five instruments were operational on the aircraft during the more than 11-hour flight from Chile to Los Angeles International Airport, with atmospheric chemistry samples collected at altitudes up to 40,000 feet. After briefly stopping at the Los Angeles airport to clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the DC-8 and its complement of scientists and flight crew flew the short 25-minute flight north to NASA Dryden's Palmdale facility.
The aircraft flew more than 210 flight hours on more than 20 data collection and transit flights during the Operation Ice Bridge campaign, most flights of more than 10 hours duration.
Atmospheric chemistry instruments operating on the transit flight from Chile included:
- NASA Langley Research Center's Differential Absorption CO (carbon monoxide) Measurement, or DACOM, sensor is a laser that measures several gases.
- A second NASA Langley instrument, the Atmospheric Vertical Observations of Carbon Dioxide in the Earth's Troposphere, or AVOCET, measures carbon dioxide with an infrared analyzer.
- The University of California at Irvine's Whole Air Sampler collects gases in tubes stored in racks on the aircraft and analyzes the samples using gas chromatography.
- The University of California at Santa Cruz's Position and Orientation system provide precision attitude and position data for several instruments on the DC-8.
- The University of Ohio's Digital Mapping System provides geo-rectified nadir imagery.
An additional flight using two of the instruments employed during Operation Ice Bridge is planned over Southern California the first week in December. The Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the primary instrument for this flight, will complete topographical mapping of the San Andreas Fault. The Airborne Topographical Mapper will undergo a post-deployment calibration during the flight.
Antarctic Ice Bridge Mission Concludes; DC-8, Scientists Head for U.S. - 11.23.09
An iceberg was captured by the photographer from NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory it flew at 2,000 feet above the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica during the fourth flight of NASA's Operation Ice Bridge mission. (NASA/Jane Peterson, NSERC) NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory departed Punta Arenas, Chile, Nov. 23, as NASA's Operation Ice Bridge wrapped up its six-week surveys and mapping of glaciers, sea ice and ice sheets on Antarctica. During the transit flight from Punta Arenas, base of operations for the science flights over Antarctica, to Santiago, Chile, an additional two hours of atmospheric chemistry data were collected.
The aircraft flew a last science mission over West Antarctica Nov. 18 with a low-level survey of Thwaites Ice Shelf. All planned flight lines for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's Gravimeter and NASA Wallops Flight Facility's Airborne Topographical Mapper were completed during the flight of more than 10 hours. A number of other radar and sensors operated throughout the mission over the target areas. A final data flight over Antarctica scheduled for Nov. 21 was cancelled due to bad weather over the survey area.
The DC-8 and its team of scientists will return to NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operation Facility in Palmdale, Calif., Nov. 24, after clearing U. S. Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport.
An additional flight using two of the same instruments employed during Operation Ice Bridge is planned over Southern California Dec. 1. The Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the primary instrument for this flight, will complete topographical mapping of the San Andreas Fault. The Airborne Topographical Mapper will undergo a post-deployment calibration during the flight.
› Operation Ice Bridge Mission Page
Low-Level Antarctic Ice Bridge Flights Continue; More Flight Hours Added - 11.17.09
NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory flies over Palmer Station, Antarctica, during an Operation Ice Bridge flight. (Zenobia Evans, Raytheon Polar Services, United States Antarctic Program) NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory continues to carry scientists and their sensors over the frozen Antarctic landscape as part of the Operation Ice Bridge mission. Data collected from the flights will help scientists better predict how melting of the massive Antarctic ice sheet might contribute to future sea rise.
The 17 data collection flights originally planned were completed ahead of schedule due to good weather. NASA recently approved an additional 90 flight hours, allowing continued data gathering about the continent's sea ice, glaciers and ice shelves.
A 10-hour flight Nov. 12 completed a low-level survey over the Abbott Ice Shelf on West Antarctica's central coast. All but three of the sensors gathered information, including a number of flight paths for data collection by the Airborne Topographical Mapper (ATM).
A low-level flight Nov. 15 took the DC-8 and its team of scientists over the Drewry and Evans Ice Streams on Antarctica's southern peninsula. The flight of more than 10 hours included a pass over Punta Arenas, Chile, for an ATM calibration.
The peninsula's Larsen Ice Shelf was the target of interest on Nov. 16. The gravimeter developed by Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is part of the sensor suite for the mission. The gravimeter plots the geometry and depth of ocean waters under the ice shelves. Specific flight tracks were flown for both gravimeter and ATM data collection.
Flights will continue over the Antarctic Peninsula and the continent's western areas until Nov. 21, weather permitting. The DC-8 and the Operation Ice Bridge scientists are scheduled to return to the aircraft's base at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations facility in Palmdale, Calif., Nov. 24.
Ice Bridge Mission Enters Final Weeks With Numerous Data Flights - 11.12.09
HI THERE! - Residents of Palmer Station, Antarctica, used their bright red United States Antarctic Program parkas to send a ground-to-air greeting to scientists and flight crew aboard NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory as it flew over the station during Operation Ice Bridge. The DC-8 is supporting NASA's Operation Ice Bridge study of Antarctic ice sheets, sea ice and glacial recession. One of three U.S. environmental research stations on the continent, Palmer Station is located on Anvers Island halfway down the Antarctic Peninsula. (NASA Photo / John Arvesen) NASA's Operation Ice Bridge team has completed five additional sea ice imaging flights over Antarctica as of Nov. 9. NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory remains on schedule to return to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. from its six-week mission on Nov. 24.
On Nov. 3 a low-level flight surveyed a number of targets on the Antarctic Peninsula. The Airborne Topographic Mapper collected data over 86 percent of the planned flight lines despite blowing snow, cloud cover and requirements for the aircraft to climb to avoid high terrain.
Take off time for the flight on Nov. 4 was delayed by 14 minutes due to a pre-dawn snow flurry requiring an aircraft de-icing. The day's flight matched previous campaign flight paths of other aircraft that carried the Airborne Topographic Mapper or ATM. The Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder, or MCoRDS, captured a significant glacier summit between Graham and Oscar II coasts.
At 11.6 hours, the Nov. 5 flight was the longest of this group. The NASA Goddard Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor collected high-altitude data over the Antarctic Peninsula. With good weather, LVIS data was collected over more than 95 percent of the lines.
The Pine Island Glacier was the target of the Nov. 7 flight. During the low-level flights, the KU Band and the University of Kansas' Snow collected five hours of data acquisition, as did the MCoRDS instrument, with signatures typical of primarily snow-covered land ice.
An additional flight over the Pine Island Glacier and ice shelf was flown Nov. 9. The 11.3-hour flight included low-level ATM data lines. The flight also included a pass over the city of Punta Arenas for ATM calibration.
Ice Bridge Mission Over Antarctica Passes Dozen Flight Mark - 11.03.09
NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory makes a turn over Pine Island Bay in the Amundsen Sea on as it heads back up the glacier for another mapping run during Operation Ice Bridge's third science flight. (NSERC/NASA photo / Jane Peterson) NASA's Operation Ice Bridge campaign to image and map Antarctica's sea ice and glaciers has completed a dozen flights as of Nov. 2. Five more data-collection flights are planned before the mission concludes and NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory returns to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., Nov. 24.
Excellent weather conditions allowed for a low-level survey over Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier Oct. 29. The University of Kansas' Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder detected bedrock under the glacier approximately 60 percent of the collection time. Clear skies allowed the Digital Mapping System to collect 11,000 images.
The second planned Airborne Topographic Mapper flight over the Weddell Sea was completed Oct. 30. Flights from the northwest to the southeast along the Antarctic Peninsula were flown at altitudes between 600 and 1,500 feet. Visibility was poor during a portion of the mission, hampering about 10 percent of the data collection.
This image of the ice shelf extending over the Amundsen Sea off Antarctica was taken by the downward-looking Digital Mapping System camera during an Ice Bridge flight by NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory from an altitude of 20,000 feet. Melting at the base of this Texas-sized ice pack in the Amundsen Sea off Antarctica could lead to significant ocean level rise in the long-term. (NASA photo) A low-level survey Oct. 31 flew over a variety of Antarctic Peninsula targets. Cloud cover obscured about 400 of the planned 2,300 kilometers of flight lines causing a data loss of about 10 percent. The Goddard Space Flight Center's Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor collected an hour of sea ice data during the transit flight from the campaign base in Punta Arenas, Chile.
The Nov. 2 flight matched two previous flight tracks flown by NASA's P-3 science aircraft for changes in the features of the Thwaites, Smith and Koehler glaciers. The DC-8 was required to fly the paths precisely as flown by the P-3 several years ago, a demanding task for the pilots that highlighted the difficulty the P-3 encountered in past data collection flights. The Wallops Flight Facility's Airborne Topographic Mapper collected 200 million laser measurements, while the KU Band radar from the University of Kansas gathered 550 gigabytes of data during that flight.
Ice Bridge Mission Scientists Collect Data on Antarctic Ice - 10.26.09
An iceberg was captured by the photographer from NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory it flew at 2,000 feet above the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 during the fourth flight of NASA's Operation Ice Bridge mission. (NASA/Jane Peterson, NSERC) Scientists aboard NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory continued the Operation Ice Bridge flights over the Antarctic continent over the weekend, collecting a vast amount of data on the Antarctic ice sheets, sea ice and ice shelves during two long flights Oct. 24 and 25.
The DC-8 flew about 11.5 hours on Saturday, continuing a low-altitude sea ice survey over the Weddell Sea, flying as low as 500 feet above the ocean. The flight was the first time this area had been surveyed with the complement of instruments aboard the aircraft for this mission. On a flight of equal duration the following day, NASA Goddard's Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor collected measurements along the southernmost ground track of NASA's ICESat satellite along the 86th parallel.
A second flight over the Pine Island Glacier is planned for early in the week of Oct. 25-31.
Operation Ice Bridge Data Flights Over Antarctica Under Way - 10.19.09
SNOWED IN – NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory was grounded by a snowstorm Oct. 19 at its staging base in Punta Arenas, Chile, forcing its third flight in the Operation Ice Bridge mission to be postponed. (NASA photo) The Operation Ice Bridge study of ice changes in Western Antarctica began with an almost 12-hour flight Oct. 16. NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory flew from its mission base in Punta Arenas, Chile, and completed three hours of low-level flight lines over the Getz Ice Shelf along southwest Antarctica.
The Airborne Topographic Mapper, a laser altimeter that produces elevation maps of the ice surface, collected data. The University of Kansas' Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder, or MCoRDS, identified bedrock signals in its initial data analysis. The Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center collected an hour of sea ice information during the south and northbound transit flights.
A second 10 ½-hour flight Oct. 18 included an additional three hours of low-level lines over the Pine Island Glacier, an area scientists believe could undergo rapid changes. The MCoRDS sensor recorded unexpected depths in its bedrock study.
Atmospheric sensors sampled the air during the flights. They include the University of California at Irvine's Whole Air Sampler and the NASA Langley Research Center's DACOM and AVOCET instruments. Both sensors measure gases, especially carbon dioxide.
A third flight, scheduled for Oct. 19, was cancelled due to snow and ice in the Punta Arenas area.
NASA's DC-8 Science Lab Arrives in Chile for Ice Bridge Mission - 10.14.09
The interior of NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory is loaded with instruments bound for the Antarctic during the fall 2009 Operation Ice Bridge mission, part of a multi-year study that tracks changes in Antarctica's sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida) NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory has arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile, to begin data collection flights over Antarctica as part of NASA's Operation Ice Bridge.
With a team of scientists and their sophisticated instruments aboard, the converted jetliner left the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., late Oct. 11 on an almost 11-hour flight to Santiago, Chile. After an overnight stay there, the DC-8 continued on to Punta Arenas where its Ice Bridge flights will be staged.
During the two flights from Palmdale to Punta Arenas, flight crew and scientists collected data from all the installed atmospheric sampling instruments to ensure they were operational. They also completed interference testing of the transmitting instruments. Two additional instruments will be installed in the field.
The aircraft will make up to 17 flights over West Antarctica, the Antarctica Peninsula and coastal areas over a six-week span during Operation Ice Bridge. Each round-trip flight from southern Chile will last about 11 hours, much of the time devoted to traveling to and from Antarctica. The first Antarctic overflight was scheduled for Oct. 15.
Operation Ice Bridge is a six-year campaign of annual studies of each of Earth's polar regions. Scientists from various research institutions are studying changes in the Antarctic ice sheet, glaciers and sea ice. Data collected will help scientists bridge the gap between NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, which is nearing the end of its operational life, and ICESat-II that is scheduled to launch no earlier than 2014.
NASA's Flying Lab Readied for Antarctic Ice Bridge Mission - 10.02.09
The Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor, or LVIS, instrumentation rack awaits loading on NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., for the Fall 2009 Operation Ice Bridge deployment to the Antarctic. Developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the LVIS is a laser altimeter that collects data on topography and vegetation coverage. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida) NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory is being prepared for its deployment in support of the 2009 Operation Ice Bridge environmental science mission over Antarctica. The converted long-range jetliner is scheduled to leave its home at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., Oct. 11 for Punta Arenas, Chile, where it will be based for the six week deployment. It is scheduled to return Nov. 24.
The largest of NASA's environmental science aircraft, the four-engine plane is carrying a team of scientists and their sensing instruments on as many as 17 flights of up to 11 hours each over the Antarctic continent during the campaign.
The six-year Operation Ice Bridge field campaign is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted. It will yield an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice.
The Ice Bridge flights will help scientists maintain the record of sea ice changes that have been collected since 2003 by NASA's Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, which is operating the last of its three lasers. ICESat-II is scheduled to launch no earlier than 2014 to replace the existing ICESat satellite.
› Pre-mission Checkout Flight Video
› Pre-mission Instrumentation Installation Video