Operation Ice Bridge is a six-year campaign of annual flights to each of Earth's polar regions. The first flights in March and April carried researchers over Greenland and the Arctic Ocean. This fall's Antarctic campaign, led by principal investigator Seelye Martin of the University of Washington, will begin the first sustained airborne research effort of its kind over the continent. Data collected by researchers will help scientists bridge the gap between NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) — which is operating the last of its three lasers — and ICESat-II, scheduled to launch in 2014.
The Ice Bridge flights will help scientists maintain the record of changes to sea ice and ice sheets that have been collected since 2003 by ICESat. The flights will lack the continent-wide coverage that can be achieved by satellite, so researchers carefully select key target locations. But the flights will also turn up new information not possible from orbit, such as the shape of the terrain below the ice.
Six flights are scheduled along Antarctica's peninsula, one along the Getz Ice Shelf, two over the Pine Island Glacier, and two others along the Amundsen coast to include the Thwaites, Smith, and Kohler glaciers.