ARCTAS mission status update, April 7, 2008
Scientists aboard NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory continued collecting data on atmospheric pollution this past weekend during flights spanning the breadth of northern Canada during the Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites -- or ARCTAS -- environmental science mission.
On Friday, April 4, the converted jetliner flew a six-hour mission from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Thule, Greenland, on a route just north of the Arctic Circle. The flying laboratory performed stair-step descents and ascents from 500 to 35,000 feet altitude while the 35 scientists on board collected and recorded data from the 22 sophisticated instruments mounted at various places on the aircraft.
On the return flight Saturday, April 5, the aircraft took an eastward detour after departing Thule to overfly the National Science Foundation's Greenland Summit Station at low altitude, then headed southwest to the northeast shore of Hudson Bay before turning northwest over the Canadian Northwest Territories before landing at Fairbanks some 10.6 hours after takeoff. As with prior flights, the flight crew performed stair-step ascents and descents in increments of 15 minutes or longer to allow scientists to collect data on atmospheric contaminants at various altitudes.
In addition to the flights by the DC-8 laboratory from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, two other NASA science aircraft, a P-3 Orion based at Wallops Flight Facility and a B-200 King Air from Langley Research Center are participating in the ARCTAS mission. Most of the flights during the first phase of the project during April are being staged out of Fairbanks International Airport.
ARCTAS is a field campaign in 2008 to study the atmosphere in the Arctic and high northern latitudes as part of the International Polar Year, a major scientific research effort.
The ARCTAS investigation is intended to improve understanding of how the composition of the Arctic atmosphere is influenced by long-range transport of pollution from lower latitudes and local emissions from boreal wildfires and their impact on Arctic quality and climate. Validation of the NASA satellites that continuously monitor the global atmosphere is also a major focus of this mission.