Mission Update

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ARCTAS mission status update, April 3, 2008
Members of the NASA DC-8 flight crew Members of the flight crew for NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory Denis Steele, Dick Ewers and Bill Brockett review flight plans for an ARCTAS atmospheric mission. Credit: NASA
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The first data gathering flight in the ARCTAS atmospheric science mission was completed Tuesday, April 1 by NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory while in transit from its base at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Mission scientists aboard the flying laboratory attempted to sample atmospheric pollution coming from Asia and validated data from space satellites while flying at a variety of altitudes ranging from 500 feet to 34,000 feet above sea level while flying over the Pacific Ocean off the western coast of the United States. The converted jetliner landed at Fairbanks, from where many of the ARCTAS missions will be flown over the next few weeks, about seven hours after takeoff.

The next ARCTAS flight for NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory is scheduled for Friday, and will take the mission scientists and their suite of 22 sophisticated instruments over the Arctic expanse to Thule, Greenland, with the return flight on Saturday, April 5. Additional missions are being flown by two other NASA science aircraft, a P-3 Orion based at Wallops Flight Facility and a B-200 King Air from Langley Research Center.

The NASA DC8 NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory lifts off the runway at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., on its first flight in the ARCTAS atmospheric science mission. Credit: NASA
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ARCTAS -- an acronym for Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites -- is a major science 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.