Earth  Sun  ID: 13430

Why NASA is sending rockets into Earth’s leaky atmosphere

In the tiny Arctic town of Ny-Ålesund, where polar bears outnumber people, winter means three months without sunlight. The unending darkness is ideal for those who seek a strange breed of northern lights, normally obscured by daylight. When these unusual auroras shine, Earth’s atmosphere leaks into space.

NASA scientists traveled to Ny-Ålesund to launch rockets through these auroras and witness oxygen particles right in the middle of their escape. Piercing these fleeting auroras, some 300 miles high, would require strategy, patience — and a fair bit of luck. This was NASA’s VISIONS-2 mission, and this is their story.

VISIONS-2 was just the first of many. Over the coming months, rocket teams from all over the world will launch rockets into this region as part of the Grand Challenge Initiative—Cusp, an international collaboration to study the mysteries of the polar atmosphere.

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Douglas E. Rowland (NASA/GSFC)
Jøran Idar Moen (University of Oslo)
Preben Hanssen (Andøya Space Center)
Kjellmar Oksavik (University of Bergen/University Centre in Svalbard)
Fred Sigernes (Kjell Henriksen Observatory, University Centre in Svalbard)
Sophia Zaccarine (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)
Glenn Maxfield (ASRC Federal Space and Defense)
John C. Hickman (NASA/WFF)

Joy Ng (USRA)
Miles S. Hatfield (Telophase)

Bailee DesRocher (USRA)
Josh Masters (Freelance)
Joy Ng (USRA)

Robert Pfaff (NASA/GSFC)
Sarah L. Jones (NASA/GSFC)
Michael Collier (NASA/GSFC)
Jason McLain (University of Maryland, College Park)
Andres Spicher (University of Oslo)
Ruth Lieberman (NASA/GSFC)

Joy Ng (USRA)
Miles S. Hatfield (Telophase)
Patrick Black (NASA/GSFC Wallops)
Trond Abrahamsen (Andøya Space Center)

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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GCMD >> Earth Science >> Atmosphere >> Atmospheric Chemistry/Oxygen Compounds >> Oxygen
GCMD >> Location >> Norway
GCMD >> Location >> Svalbard
GCMD >> Location >> Arctic
GCMD >> Location >> Cusp
NASA Science >> Earth
NASA Science >> Sun
SVS >> Atmospheric Loss
SVS >> Aurora
SVS >> Cusp Aurora

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version