Flying lab pays a visit

The grazing cows barely spared a glance for the flying laboratory which made history with a low sweep over their Lauder paddock yesterday.

The DC-8 research plane, operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), was on a mission to survey the atmosphere over the oceans, measuring pollution and assessing how the environment has changed as a result.

The mission, the first of its kind, also took readings over the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) station at Lauder, which is surrounded by farmland. The Lauder station specialises in atmospheric research.

There were clear blue skies yesterday as equipment aboard the Californian-based plane measured airborne particles and sampled gases.

''It's valuable information for us as well as Nasa - the data we'll receive is like gold to us,'' Niwa principal scientist for climate and atmosphere, Dr Olaf Morgenstern, said.

The plane has flown over Alaska and Hawaii and flew from American Samoa yesterday over Lauder before landing in Christchurch. Lauder scientists took measurements at the same time as the scientists on board the plane, to compare the ground-based and airborne results.

''The aircraft has 21 different instruments and measures 100 different fields so its in-situ measurements will be very comprehensive,'' Dr Morgenstern said.

The Nasa plane is heading to South America and north along the Atlantic ocean to Greenland. It will repeat the mission annually over the next three years, so samples are taken in all four seasons.


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