Balloon Telescope GUSTO lands on Antarctica

Balloon Telescope GUSTO lands on Antarctica

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By Wisse Hettinga

Balloon Telescope GUSTO lands on Antarctica after record-breaking flight

After a record-breaking 57 days, 7 hours and 38 minutes, NASA’s balloon telescope GUSTO completed its flight above Antarctica by landing on the ice by parachute. The mission was designed to last 55 days. GUSTO has observed atomic clouds in our own galaxy and its nearest neighbor with far-infrared cameras, developed by SRON and TU Delft. 

Since its launch on new year’s eve, the Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) has floated along the circumpolar vortex at 36-40 km altitude above Antarctica. During its 57 days in the air, it has mapped a large part of our Milky Way, including the center, and a satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. Gusto has spiraled outwards for three orbits before losing altitude. As night was gaining more and more terrain, especially on the outer parts of the continent, altitude drops were inevitable and eventually caused an expected end of the mission. GUSTO had already completed its mission plan.

‘We are celebrating a huge success,’ says Jian-Rong Gao (SRON/TU Delft), the project leader for the Dutch contribution. ‘GUSTO has collected vast amounts of data during its 57 days in the stratosphere. And we are very happy that it landed on land rather than in the ocean. This means NASA can recover it when spring sets in on the southern hemisphere. Recovery is actually not necessary because all the data has already been transferred to the ground station. But it would be great for a museum and some parts could even be re-used for future missions.’

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