Night Sky Over Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard
Caption: A long-exposure photograph of the night sky over Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. Credit: Chris Pirner
For a month’s time, Ny-Ålesund will be home to the rocket team behind NASA’s VISIONS-2 mission, short for Visualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2. They have ventured to this extreme place for an up-close look at atmospheric escape, the process whereby Earth is slowly leaking its atmosphere into space. Understanding atmospheric escape on Earth has applications all over the universe — from predicting which far off planets might be habitable, to piecing together how Mars became the desolate, exposed landscape it is today. VISIONS-2 is scheduled to launch no earlier than Dec. 4, 2018.
Led by Doug Rowland of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, VISIONS-2 is a sounding rocket mission, a type of suborbital rocket that makes brief, targeted flights into space before falling back to Earth just a few minutes later. Sounding rockets are unique among scientific spacecraft for their superior dexterity: They can be carted to remote locations, where they are aimed and shot into short-lived events — like the sudden formation of the aurora borealis — at a moment’s notice.
Read more: go.nasa.gov/2DUW1R7
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.
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