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Go, Super-TIGER, go!

Members of the Super-TIGER team in Antarctica
Super-TIGER team members in Antarctica:
John E Ward (WUSTL), Ryan Murphy (WUSTL), Thomas Hams (GSFC), Sean Fitzsimmons (GSFC)

We’ve talked about NASA’s scientific balloon projects in the past, even featuring them in a two-part podcast series about balloon-borne science in Antarctica and what it’s like to live and work on the ice. Scientific balloons are an alternative to satellites for some NASA projects – they cost less, are easier to launch, and often allow researchers to recover their hardware for future refinement and re-flight.

The Super-TIGER (Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder) balloon-borne experiment is currently flying over a hundred thousand feet above Antarctica, circling the South Pole for the third time since its launch on December 9, 2012. The project is a NASA-funded collaboration with researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Goddard Space Flight Center, California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Lab, and the University of Minnesota. The scientific instruments on Super-TIGER are collecting cosmic rays, in hopes of better understanding their origins.

When Super-TIGER launched, its team planned for the balloon to make at least two full loops around the pole. When it completed that, they decided… let’s keep going! And soon after their third loop began, they set a new flight duration record for scientific ballooning.

Super-TIGER track as of 18:27:55Z 01/25/13
Super-TIGER position as of 18:29:57Z 01/25/13
(current revolution in red)

As a NASA press release announced earlier this week, Super-TIGER surpassed the existing record of 41 days and 22 hours, set in 2005 by the first flight of the CREAM (Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass) experiment. It’s now been up for 48 days, with another several days until the payload is close enough to McMurdo again for landing and recovery.

Super-TIGER before launch, December 2012
Super-TIGER preparing for launch, December 2012

If you’d like to track the Super-TIGER balloon payload and get updates about its milestones, check out these mission resources:

And these articles from the Washington University Newsroom provide great coverage of Super-TIGER – before, during, and after launch:

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