January 28, 2005

NASA’s ‘CREAM’ Ballon Makes Record Flight

A NASA scientific balloon has broken the flight record for duration and distance, soaring for nearly 42 days and making three orbits around the South Pole.

The balloon, which is almost half-again as large as a football field, carried the Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass experiment, which is designed to study cosmic rays arriving on Earth from outside the solar system.

In addition to gathering scientific data, the flight demonstrated the capabilities of the NASA Ultra-Long Duration Balloon support system, space agency officials said Friday. The ULDB is being developed to extend flights up to 100 days.

NASA scientists launched the pilotless, helium-filled CREAM balloon from the McMurdo research station in Antarctica on Dec. 16. The balloon traveled 41 days and 22 hours, and landed on Jan. 27 about 410 miles (660 kilometers) from McMurdo.

The previous endurance record for a balloon flight was in December 2001, also from McMurdo. That flight orbited the South Pole twice over 31 days and 20 hours.