› View larger The Getz Ice Shelf extends several miles into the ocean from the Getz glacier as it empties into the ocean along the Antarctic coast. The vertical face of the ice shelf is almost 200 feet high and is estimated to extend another 1000 feet below the ocean surface. This photo was taken during a flight on Nov. 5, 2010. Credit: NASA/Dick Ewers NASA's Operation IceBridge science team returned home Tuesday, after a five-week deployment to Punta Arenas in the Chilean state of Patagonia for the Antarctic 2010 Operation IceBridge environmental science campaign. NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory arrived in Los Angeles International Airport shortly after 4 p.m. Nov. 23 after an uneventful 11.5-hour flight from Santiago, Chile, and after clearing customs, made the 20-minute hop to its home base at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.
Operation IceBridge Completes Another Successful Antarctic Campaign
› View larger A compilation of flight lines shows the paths of all 10 flights flown during Operation IceBridge's Antarctic 2010 campaign. Credit: Michael Studinger SANTIAGO, Chile -- For the first time in six weeks the nose of the DC-8 is pointing north today after taking off from Punta Arenas airport. Instead of heading south on our familiar flight path to Antarctica over snow capped mountains that soon mark the last land before the windswept Southern Ocean, we are heading north towards Santiago, where we will stay overnight and continue on to Palmdale, California on the next day. We have completed our science flights over Antarctica and are heading home.
› View larger Mt. Murphy (above) breaks the monotony of the mostly flat and barren white landscape of West Antarctica during the science flight there on Nov. 19. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen NASA's Operation IceBridge science team is heading home from Chile, after two final science data-collection flights over Antarctica this past weekend..
NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory flew from its deployment base at Punta Arenas to the nation's capital at Santiago on Monday, Nov. 22, and was scheduled to fly from Santiago to its home base in Southern California the following day.
Although about 35 planned flight hours remained on the flight schedule that would have allowed at least one more science flight, a fuel shortage in Punta Arenas resulting from a strike by refinery workers led mission managers to decide against extending the almost five-week campaign.
The last two data-collection flights over Antarctica Nov. 19 and 20 had been delayed several days due to difficulty in obtaining a replacement for a malfunctioning fuel-flow sensor on one of the DC-8's four engines. Once the part arrived at the remote deployment base, it was quickly installed, checked out, and the flight crew and scientists climbed aboard for what would be a 10.9-hour flight Nov.19. Almost four hours of that time was spent collecting data in four long low-altitude tracks over the Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Bay, two each under the previous ground tracks of NASA's ICESat and ESA's CryoSat-2 satellites.
The converted jetliner was aloft again for an 11-hour-plus flight Nov. 20, with the main objective to measure the ice thickness and surface elevations of the numerous tributaries feeding into the main Pine Island Glacier. With all seven specialized instruments operating, data was collected while flying at 1,500 feet above ground level on four arch-shaped lines centered around the outlet of the glacier over the course of four hours.
"With the fuel flow problem behind us the scientists were eager to salvage as many days remaining with missions," reported NASA DC-8 research pilot Dick Ewers. Although weather conditions had hindered several of the earlier flights, he reported that the last two flights encountered clear air and excellent data-collection conditions.
With not enough fuel available in Punta Arenas for another long-duration science flight, the flight and ground crews and science team packed up their equipment Nov. 21 and flew to Santiago on Monday, Nov. 22. The team made the long transit flight from Santiago to Los Angeles for customs clearance and then the short hop to Palmdale Nov. 23.
Mission managers reported that the science instruments functioned well during the campaign, which included 10 dedicated science flights totaling almost 115 hours of flight time over Antarctica and its environs, not including checkout and transit flights.
Passing Time Between Flights
› View larger Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel On Nov. 18, IceBridge teams in Punta Arenas, Chile, awaited the arrival of a fuel flow sensor and seals for the DC-8, pushing the next possible science flight to Friday, Nov. 19. Stay tuned for flight status updates through the final week of the campaign.
Meanwhile, John Sonntag and Jim Yungel (above), of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, gave a talk on Nov. 17 at the Chilean Antarctic Institute about IceBridge's Airborne Topographic Mapper. About 15-20 people from the Institute and the University of Magellan attended the talk. "We enjoyed the visit and interaction with scientists and students," Yungel wrote.
› Download video Antarctic Peninsula Flight Highlights. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Michelle Williams
The IceBridge science team and DC-8 crew flew a mission over the Antarctic Peninsula on Saturday, November 13th. This video provides a snapshot of the flight from the field and describes the challenges faced with weather and terrain. Though the forecast showed low cloud ceilings over the target area, the team departed for the peninsula on Saturday morning, optimistic for a successful flight. All instruments collected data for several glaciers before the weather conditions forced an early return to Punta Arenas.
› View larger Icebergs are seen calving from the Dotson Ice Shelf during a successful mission there on Nov. 6. Weather conditions were favorable over the ice-covered regions. Credit: Jim Yungel. The DC-8 has since been on the ground until flights resumed today, Nov. 10, for the campaign's seventh flight -- a high-altitude mission around the 86th latitude of the pole.
Go for Getz and a South Pole Flyover
› View larger Before heading back to the mission's base in Punta Arenas, Chile, the DC-8 flew over the South Pole Station (above), a research station at Earth's geographic South Pole. Credit: Digital Mapping System (DMS) group. On Nov. 5, IceBridge flew a newly designed mission over West Antarctica's Getz Ice Shelf, completing the fifth flight of the Antarctic 2010 campaign. The survey supplements a similar flight made in 2009, this time with an additional focus on gravity-oriented measurements along the shelf and across the "flux gate" -- an imaginary line through which scientists calculate ice loss.
The flight follows a successful, high-altitude mission on Nov. 4, when crew flew an arc-shaped path around the South Pole. The flight path combined with a similar flight from 2009 intersects nearly 70 percent of orbits from the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, providing researchers with data to calibrate ice sheet surface elevation measurements.
IceBridge Sea Ice Flight Targets Bellingshausen, Amundsen Seas
› View larger NASA's DC-8 flies over Antarctica's Weddell Sea on Oct. 28 during a mission to map sea ice and underfly the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite. Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel Scientists aboard NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory focused the third data-collection mission in the Fall 2010 Operation IceBridge campaign on the thickness of sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Sea areas in Antarctica Oct. 30.
Just under six hours of data collection was obtained during low-level runs at about 1,400 feet above sea level during the 10.3-hour flight from the flying lab's deployment base in Punta Arenas, Chile. Mission manager Frank Cutler reported that clouds along the route obscured observation of sea ice for about an hour and 15 minutes, but were not an issue for the rest of the mission.
Mission scientists emphasized data and imagery collection from four of the seven specialized instruments aboard the airborne laboratory, including the Airborne Topographic Mapper, the Digital Mapping System, the Ku-Band Radar Altimeter and a snow radar.
The Airborne Topographic Mapper, developed at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, is an airborne laser that measures changes in the surface elevation of the ice.
The Digital Mapping System, operated by the University of California at Santa Cruz, is an airborne digital camera that acquires high resolution natural color and panchromatic imagery.
The Ku-Band Radar Altimeter from the University of Kansas penetrates through snow to measure the surface elevation of sea ice and ice sheets. It can also measure sea surface elevation.
The snow radar, also developed by the University of Kansas, measures the thickness of snow on top of sea ice and glaciers, allowing researchers to differentiate between snow and ice and make more accurate thickness measurements.
The Fall 2010 IceBridge campaign is centered on investigation and monitoring of the changing conditions of the Antarctic’s sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers.
NASA's DC-8 Flies First Antarctic IceBridge Mission
› View larger NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory lifts off on an Fall 2010 Operation IceBridge instrument checkout flight prior to departure to Chile. Credit: NASA/Tony Landis NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory completed its first data-collection mission in the Fall 2010 Operation IceBridge campaign Oct. 26, a 12.4-hour flight over the Weddell Sea and the Brunt Ice Shelf in western Antarctica. After departing its deployment base in Punta Arenas, Chile, the aircraft flew repeated lines at altitudes as low as 1,500 feet, while scientists on board collected new data from seven science instruments for the campaign’s investigation and monitoring of the changing conditions of the Antarctic’s sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers
› View larger NASA's DC-8, a flying science lab, after takeoff from Punta Arenas, Chile, on the first science flight of the Operation IceBridge Antarctic 2010 campaign. Credit: NASA/Kyle Krabill, Wallops Flight Facility IceBridge teams took off today for the first science flight of the Antarctic 2010 campaign. Science teams flew across the Weddell Sea with the primary goal of measuring sea ice freeboard (the height of ice above the water level), which is used to estimate sea ice thickness. The DC-8 took off from Punta Arenas, Chile, at about 9 a.m. local time for the 11-hour flight.
NASA Airborne Science Campaign Begins Antarctic Sequel
› View larger On Oct. 18, the DC-8 transited to Santiago, Chile, before completing the trip on Oct. 19 to Punta Arenas -- base for the 2010 Antarctic IceBridge mission. Flights for the Antarctic 2010 campaign are scheduled to begin as soon as Oct. 21. Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel
› View video On October 18th, NASA's Operation IceBridge scientists and the DC-8 crew departed for Punta Arenas, Chile where they will begin the Antarctic 2010 phase of the mission. Credit: Michelle Williams/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center › Download video Scientists returned this week to the Southern Hemisphere where NASA's Operation IceBridge mission is set to begin its second year of airborne surveys over Antarctica. The mission monitors the region's changing sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers.
Researchers will make flights from Punta Arenas, Chile, on NASA's DC-8, a 157-foot airborne laboratory equipped with a suite of seven instruments. The focus is on re-surveying areas that are undergoing rapid change and embarking on new lines of investigation.
"We are excited to learn how the glaciers and sea ice have changed since last year's campaign," said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "We also are going to be mapping uncharted regions that will allow us to better assess future behavior of the Antarctic ice sheets and sea ice."
> View larger image On Oct. 12, mechanics at NASA's NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) in Palmdale, Calif., mounted a radar panel onto the NASA DC-8's right wing. Credit: NASA NASA's Operation IceBridge mission is ramping up for the 2010 Antarctic field campaign. On Sept. 28, teams began installing instruments onto the DC-8 at DFRC. Instrument installation has since wrapped up and test flights confirmed that radar and lidar systems are operating as expected.
Next week, crew and scientists are scheduled to transit on the DC-8 to Santiago and then on to Punta Arenas, Chile, where they will be based for the remainder of the campaign. Stay tuned for frequent updates to the IceBridge Web page and Twitter feed throughout the campaign.