This image, taken through a telescope, is of the newly designed super pressure balloon aloft over Antarctica.
NASA and the National Science Foundation successfully launched the newly designed super pressure balloon prototype that may herald a new era of high-altitude scientific research. The super-pressure balloon ultimately will carry large scientific experiments to the brink of space for 100 days or more.
This seven-million-cubic-foot super-pressure balloon is the largest single-cell, super-pressure, fully-sealed balloon ever flown. When development ends, NASA will have a 22 million-cubic-foot balloon that can carry a one-ton instrument to an altitude of more than 110,000 feet, which is 3-4 times higher than passenger planes fly.
Ultra-long duration missions using the super pressure balloon cost considerably less than a satellite and the scientific instruments flown can be retrieved and launched again, making them ideal very-high altitude research platforms.
The test flight was launched Dec. 28, 2008, from McMurdo Station, the National Science Foundation's logistics hub in Antarctica.
Image Credit:Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility