23 Mar 2015

Super balloon launch delayed

8:37 am on 23 March 2015

NASA has postponed the super balloon launch from Central Otago because of strong winds blowing in the wrong direction.

A giant NASA science balloon being inflated at the launch site near Alice Springs in 2010.

A giant NASA science balloon being inflated at the launch site near Alice Springs in 2010. Photo: AFP

The balloon, the size of a sports stadium, will be used to carry equipment to test everything from atmospheric conditions to the origins of the universe.

Once airborne, it will allow scientists to test groundbreaking instruments before they are considered for spacecraft.

The launch had already beeen postponed for a week because of Cyclone Pam and was expected to take place this morning at Wanaka Airport. The next attempt is likely to be on Thursday or Friday.

Organisers have said it took 24 launch dates before a similar balloon in Sweden was able to get off the ground.

The giant balloon is expected to take between one and three weeks to circle the Earth, depending on windspeed.

NASA hopes the balloon's flight will beat the current record of 54 days and says it is possible it could stay afloat for up to 100 days given the right conditions.

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