back to article NASA deploys huge clingfilm strato-pumpkin over Antarctic

NASA balloon boffins are chuffed to announce that they have successfully launched a new prototype gasbag into the stratosphere above the Antarctic. The designers hope soon to produce a colossal pumpkin-shaped balloon made of material similar to clingfilm, able to cruise on the fringes of space carrying a one-tonne instrument …

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  1. Dennis
    Joke

    Global warming ?

    And there was I thinking that NASA was going to wrap the Antarctic in clingfilm to stop it melting.

  2. Yorkshirepudding
    Alien

    i for one...

    welcome our gas filled floating overlord

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Didn't Qinetiq already try this?

    And it turned out to be useless anywhere there was aerial wildlife?

    Also, they're cheating- launching it in winter in the Arctic when the air's at its densest...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Wheres Snoopy?

    See the Giant Pumpkin does exist!

  5. Paul
    Coat

    Plug a hole?

    Could they make one big enough to fill the hole in the ozone layer?

    All obvious But Plug jokes implied.

  6. Simon B
    Flame

    flying nuke!

    "The team has further work to do to enable the super pressure balloon to lift a one-ton instrument to a float altitude of 110,000 feet, but they are on the right path." And what happens WHEN it gets a leak and this ONE TON brick comes crashing down from 22,000 feet?! Bang! Nuke! Wipeout! Ooops! sorry???!

  7. spezzer
    Boffin

    nerd alert!

    I watched a documentary the other day about this and a research team including NASA has done this on a smaller scale and floated a telescope collecting data on stars and looking for new objects in space - the telescop was a serious peice of kit but didnt transmit its data back to base and meant the team had to collect the instuments after landing somewhere in the antartic - it landed okay but the parachute didnt detach and dragged the machine 150 miles across the ice - it took a few days but they evetually recovered the disk drive with all the data and was a real success. worth a watch if you like this stuff!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Until it leaks ..

    A 1 tonne instrument package falling from 111,000ft ..hrrmmm

    Polarbear Pate' anyone ?

  9. Trygve Henriksen

    AC: No polar bears in the Antarctic...

    The balloon would have to be seriously off course to hit one as they're all in the Arctic...

    As for dropping the payload...

    Unless the material splits all the way from top to bottom I would imagine that it would lust leak out slowly, as on every other balloon, and you'd get a slow(well, slower than terminal velocity... ) descent.

  10. Norfolk Enchants Paris
    Happy

    Pumpkin?

    Looks more like a giant floating Terry's Chocolate Orange to me.

    Good luck to them. An idea like this deserves to succeed, as I love Terry's Chocolate Oranges.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @ Until it leaks

    There are no polar bears in the Antarctic. In fact, the name 'Antarctic' specifically means "no bears"

    </pedant>

  12. Gulfie

    @AC "Didn't Qinetiq already try this?"

    Maybe, but there aren't may birds at 100,000 feet and up. Even Concorde didn't fly that high.

  13. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Joke

    Crash... bang...

    "A 1 tonne instrument package falling from 111,000ft ..hrrmmm"

    Is it just coincidence that NASA's balloon department is based as Wallops Island?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Until it leaks

    Polar bears at the Antarctic? I know global warming is supposed to cause freak migration of animals, but WOW!

  15. John Robson Silver badge
    Boffin

    @AC

    Polar bears don't live in the antarctic - you might like some penguin pate though

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Penguin Pate, not PolarBear pate

    Polar bears in the Arctic, penguins in the Antarctic.

    Maybe the Greenpeace types can get it to hit a whaling ship?

  17. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Zylon?

    Admit it, you made that up.

  18. Sweep

    @ AC 12.59

    They're launching it where the penguins live, not the polar bears. It's summertime down under and I don't think there's much flying around (Superman lives in the Arctic)

  19. Flugal

    @ Annonymous Coward

    Polar Bears? It tends to be penguins that live in the Antarctic. Or that balloon is way off course.

  20. Bad Beaver
    Boffin

    What are they getting up there?

    One ton of equipment sure is a lot of stuff this day and age... or just one or two really nice items plus a boatload of parachutes, buoys and heavy-duty impact protection...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @Beaver

    One ton(ne) is enough for a giant big ray gun that harnesses the power of the sun and magnifies them through man-made diamonds to melt the polar ice caps and therefore rule the world by threatening to unleash the power of Goldeneye.

    Repeat...

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs

    I must stop watching my James Bond DVDs...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ All those crash landing responses

    I doubt that it would be the case that the whole thing will go pop and drop to earth with a thud. I think NASA will just make it a single air bag. I presume the whole will contain multiple bags so that, should one pop it will slowly descend a few thousand feet and stop.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    CREAM bag?

    I've just noticed. CREAM bag? You're having a laugh right? Next you'll be telling me that there are two spheroids within the CREAM bag, or that the aim of the CREAM bag is to fulfil the needs of the Thing We Attached To-it (or TWAT).

    I am worried about NASA emptying a very large CREAM bag over all those penguins.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    @AC 14:07

    guess who was watching QI on dave the other night.

  25. Ursa Major
    Boffin

    @@ Until it leaks

    "There are no polar bears in the Antarctic. In fact, the name 'Antarctic' specifically means "no bears""

    But the 'bear' in 'Arctic' refers to the constellation Ursa Major, the "Great Bear", not polar bears.

  26. Richard_C
    Linux

    Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!

    One tonne hoo-dads falling from the sky is one thing, but what about stadium sized sandwich bags fluttering about the pristine wilderness of the Antarctic, shrink-wrapping entire penguin colonies for posterity?

  27. Tom

    @Simon B

    "ONE TON brick comes crashing down from 22,000 feet?! Bang! Nuke! Wipeout! Ooops! sorry???!"

    Yep, because when, for example, planes weighing far more than one ton crash there's always an accompanying nuclear detonation.

  28. Sam Turner

    re: Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!

    "what about stadium sized sandwich bags fluttering about the pristine wilderness of the Antarctic"

    Some dreary teenager will film it with a camcorder and use the arty footage to seduce his neighbour's grumpy daughter.

  29. Rick Dickinson
    Joke

    @Anomalous Cowherd -- re: "Zylon"

    "Zylon?"

    There's not much to do on a Saturday night at McMurdo station. The "Z" is just an "N" that got drunk, and fell over.

  30. Daniel Jones

    I gotta wonder

    Whether Richard Branson's little space project might get a hold of this tech.

    He's wondered about using a balloon to get his fatcats' space tourism vehicle part way into space to save using rockets before but was told (IIRC by Buzz Aldrin) they'd thought about it in the fifties/sixties and it was decided rockets were the best option. (presumably they were not as good at building balloons in those days)

    I'd have thought you could build some sort of manned capsule and have it weigh less than a tonne. 'Course, the cats may have to go on a diet before wasting their 200 grand...

  31. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    poly(p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole)

    Zylon is the trade name for poly(p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole). It is stronger than Kevlar, but you would not want to smoke it.

  32. Sillyfellow
    Joke

    well

    then hopefully they'll be fitting them with parachutes....

  33. Bounty

    100,000 feet

    That's like 1/3 of the way to space right? Dump the 1 ton telescope and attach the super pumpkin to Richard Branson.

  34. Steven Raith
    Flame

    @Global warming ?

    Dennis, wrapping the antartic in clingfilm to stop it melting is only the first step - they'd need to find a pretty big freezer to put it in to finish the job.

    Steven "I'll reheat the remains of that chow mein for breakfast tomorrow" R

  35. Joe Cooper

    @I gotta wonder

    "I'd have thought you could build some sort of manned capsule and have it weigh less than a tonne. 'Course, the cats may have to go on a diet before wasting their 200 grand..."

    It would probably be cheaper to just make an airlifter than develop a manned rocketship under one ton.

    Plus the airlifter (White Knight II) can do other things.

    They used a White Knight to test the X-37 space plane prototype. An orbital version is going up this year!

    They're also hoping to flog them as flame retardant carriers for firefighting.

    People will also be able to ride in the air-lifter.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    110,000 feet?

    What's that in chains, furlongs, and perches?

    If you're going to use imperial measure, shouldn't the payload be measured in tons (or bushels and pecks) rather than tonnes? Consistency, people.

  37. Nano nano

    Ozone repair

    I read somewhere that if dollops of ammonia (NH3) gas were lobbed into the Antarctic air, that would kill off the CFCs ... don't know if one balloon-worth would be enough though ...

  38. stuart Thompson

    @Flocke Kroes

    To be honest i wouldn't want to smoke Kevlar either.

  39. chris
    Coat

    Plug the ozone hole, Huzzah

    Build a bigger one and plug the the ozone hole

    I will take my MBE now ma'am

  40. Cris Wilson
    Coat

    Which is it?

    Is it a one tonne payload or a one ton payload? There is a difference!

    Mines the coat with the chinese dumpling in the pocket.

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