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NASA scientists embark on extreme Antarctic trek

14 December 2017

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In temperatures that can drop below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, along a route occasionally blocked by wind-driven ice dunes, a hundred miles from any other people, a team led by two NASA scientists will survey an unexplored stretch of Antarctic ice.

They're packing extreme cold-weather gear and scientific instruments onto sleds pulled by two tank-like snow machines called PistenBullys, and on 21 December they will begin their two- to three-week traverse in an arc around the South Pole.

The 470-mile expedition in one of the most barren landscapes on Earth will ultimately provide the best assessment of the accuracy of data collected from space by the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), set to launch in 2018. With a fast-firing laser instrument, ICESat-2 will measure the elevation of ice sheets and track change over time. Even small amounts of melt across areas as vast as Greenland or Antarctica can result in large amounts of meltwater contributing to sea level rise.

Source: NASA

Image credit: PistenBully - PistenBully, a tank-like snow machine.

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