The Bay of Plenty will join the 'space race' and achieve a New Zealand first in June when three sub-orbital helium space weather balloons are launched from Tauranga to ascend to the edge of space to gather critical scientific data on earth's cosmic ray environment.
Three sub-orbital helium balloons will be deployed 30km into the stratosphere to explore the near-space environment and gather scientific data to compare with other flights already conducted around the world. The balloons will carry payloads focusing on three kinds of research; Monitoring cosmic rays in the atmosphere, stress testing microbes and developing a biological radiation sensor. Once launched the helium filled weather space balloons will ascend to the stratosphere, collecting data as they go before popping and descending via parachute. The entire expedition is recorded by on-board video cameras and GPS tracking devices on the payload allows the student team to locate the payload and gathered data once it lands back on earth, somewhere in the Western Bay of Plenty region.
Subject to suitable weather conditions a triple balloon launch is scheduled to take place between June 20-28th 2018. Launch Program
This launch is part of an international project, where data will be collected and combined to give a global picture of what is happening in our stratosphere and how the increase in cosmic radiation may be affecting all our lives right now and in the future. How does the overall increase affect us? Cosmic rays penetrate commercial airlines, dosing passengers and flight crews enough that pilots are classified as occupational radiation workers. Some research suggests that cosmic rays can seed clouds and trigger lightning, potentially altering weather and climate.
Led by US astronomer and science writer Dr. Tony Philips from spaceweather.com, a 13 strong party of teachers and students from the Earth to Sky Calculus Group will arrive in the Bay of Plenty in June. The Earth to Sky Calculus Group has launched over 100 research-grade balloons and students of the Earth to Sky Calculus are widely recognised as leading experts in this type of exploration. Even NASA has visited the group's launch site near Bishop, California to observe and learn from their procedures.