Last week, NASA finally successfully launched a super pressure balloon from Wanaka Airport, following several attempts that had been thwarted by foul weather.
Listen to mission manager Janet Letchworth on Checkpoint:
The purpose of the flight is to test the technology with the goal of long-duration flights of more than a hundred days at mid-latitudes. On this flight, the balloon gondola is also carrying a soft gamma-ray telescope designed to study the evolution of matter in the universe.
Long-haul balloon flights at constant altitudes are expected to become an important and inexpensive tool for the study of the near-space environment. The current record for a NASA balloon flight is 54 days.