NASA’s Super-Pressure Balloon finally takes off at Wanaka

NASA has successfully launched the super-pressure balloon (SPB) at Wanaka Airport. The balloon was lifted off around 10.15 am and will continue to inflate and increase in size when it will go to 33 kilometers above Earth.

Mission boss Debbie Fairbrother said that even after 15 years working with the Columbia Science Balloon Facility, she still feels excitement at the time of watching a launch.

She said it was 'dream scenario' to get airborne on the second attempt and said that an aborted effort on Monday would have been a good trial.

Fairbrother said, "The launch was great. Now we gotta get it to float. It's a test balloon. We gotta get it up to the right altitude. It has to deploy properly and depressurize".

She stated that scientists are looking for a long duration so the goal is a 100-day flight, but if they don't get that with the mission than its fine. The payload has a GPS and camera equipment.

According to Fairbrother, if the flight gets successful, then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would come back to Wanaka next year with scientists.

Fairbrother said that the balloon is already past 8.8km and is tracking east coast of the South Island and there are chances that it might be visible from Timaru and Oamaru later today. She is not fully sure about it.

NASA campaign manager, Dwayne Orr felt very happy with the launch. He said that Wanaka's weather had proved complicated and clouds have already started moving in quickly over the airport. He added that this would not affect the balloon's flight.

Orr said that the balloon is now invisible from the airport, as it is moving about 1000ft (300m) per minute, maybe even 12,000.

New Zealand