NASA successfully launched two sounding rockets from Norway just moments apart early Friday, a move that will allow scientists to better study how Earth’s atmosphere escapes into space.
The first rocket launched from Norway’s Andoya Space Center at 6:06 a.m. EST, with the second following two minutes later.
The rockets were named Visualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2, or VISIONS-2, rockets. They’re supported through NASA Wallops Flight Facility’s Sounding Rocket Program, managed by NASA’s Heliophysics Divison.
The rockets were flown into the northern polar cusp, which is from where atmospheric particles can escape. Once there, the rockets map oxygen outflow from the aurora through an imaging technique, according to a news release from NASA.
The rockets are working to acquire a lot of detail about a single oxygen outflow event rather than attempting to combine data from many events, a departure from past launches.
“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,” the release said.
Friday’s launch is the first on nine missions set to happen over the next 14 months. Researchers from around the world, including the U.S., Norway and Japan, are working on the missions as part of the Grand Challenge Initiative to better understand “this unusual portal between Earth and space,” according to the release.
The next launch is already on the launch pad at the Andoya Space Center, which is in Andenes, Norway. The launch window runs through Dec. 19.
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