Campers Tour NASA DC-8

The NASA DC-8 aircraft recently completed a six-week study of snow and precipitation during NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement Cold-season Precipitation Experiment, or GCPEx.

During the GCPEx mission, the DC-8 airborne science laboratory was based at the Bangor International Airport in Bangor, ME and completed 13 data-collection flights over ground sites in Ontario, Canada.

The goal of GCPEx was to tackle a difficult challenge facing the upcoming Gobal Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite mission — measuring snowfall from space.

Read more about the completion of the GCPEx mission here:

Before returning to its home base in Palmdale, CA, the DC-8 played host to a group of elementary school students from the Challenger Learning Center of Maine.  These students were part of a February vacation camp designed to inspire them to pursue careers in math and science.

Mission Director Walter Klein (left) poses with Challenger Learning Center of Maine campers, staff, and chaperones next to the NASA DC-8 (Image Credit: Susan Jonason)

Challenger Center Students, staff, and chaperones climb aboard the DC-8 flying science laboratory at the Bangor International Airport (Image Credit: Susan Jonason)

Twenty-six student campers, along with ten challenger center staff and parents participated in the tour of the NASA DC-8.  The group learned  about NASA’s Earth and Airborne Science research, the GCPEx mission, and the DC-8 flying laboratory.  They heard first-hand what an amazing experience it is for the scientists, engineers, and pilots to fly all over the world in NASA research aircraft.

Inside the DC-8, students learn about the aircraft and its scientific missions all over the world (Image Credit: Jennifer Therrien)

Future pilot in the cockpit of the DC-8 (Image Credit: Jennifer Therrien)

For more information about the GCPEx mission, visit:

For more information about the Challenger Learning Center of Maine, visit:

Students Selected for 2011 NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP)

Twenty-nine advanced undergraduate and early graduate students from across the United States have been selected to participate in the 2011 NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP).

SARP, now in its third year, is a unique summer internship program that enables students to acquire hands-on research experience in all aspects of an airborne scientific campaign.  The twenty-nine students will work in multi-disciplinary teams in three general research areas: atmospheric chemistry, evapotranspiration from agricultural crops in California, and ocean biology along the California coast.  They will assist in the operation of instruments onboard the NASA DC-8 aircraft to sample atmospheric gases and to image land and water surfaces in multiple spectral bands. Along with airborne data collection, students will also participate in taking measurements at field sites.

Outstanding faculty, mentors, and staff are drawn from several universities and NASA centers as well as from NASA flight operations and engineering.  Program faculty will present detailed information on their research.  Faculty and mentors will then guide participants through instrument and flight preparations, data analysis, and interpretation.  Students will give final presentations of their results and the conclusion of the program.  In addition, several students will go on to present their results at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.

SARP 2010 Video Summary (produced by J. Peterson)

SARP 2009 was featured in an NPR piece “Earth Science from the Sky: The Next Generation” by Jon Hamilton.
The 2011 SARP students hail from 28 universities and colleges in 20 states.  The majors of the students in this interdisciplinary group cover a wide range of scientific, mathematical, and engineering disciplines.   Students were competitively selected based on their outstanding academic performance, future career plans, ability to work in teams, and interest in Earth system science.  One of the great strengths of SARP is that students from different disciplines learn from each other and work together toward common research goals.  Students also form lasting personal and professional relationships that they will carry into their future careers.  
SARP is managed by the National Suborbital Education and Research Center at the University of North Dakota with funding form the NASA Airborne Science Program.  For more information and updates on SARP 2011, please visit

Glory Launch

**[First Posted on March 5, 2011]**

All of the scientists, engineers, pilots, and crew onboard the NASA DC-8 and the NASA Airborne Science Program support staff on the ground were deeply saddened by the launch failure of the Glory satellite.  For more information about the specifics of what went wrong, watch the NASA news conference.  For information on what the loss of Glory means to climate science, see here.

The NASA DC-8 left its home base at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in California at 9:47PM PST.

Boarding the NASA DC-8 before takeoff (March 4, 2011 8PM)

Inside the NASA DC-8 (March 4, 2011 8PM)

The DC-8 flew 1800 miles south to 7.5N 120W (a spot over the Pacific Ocean 2800 miles off the coast of Panama) where it circled for approximately thirty minutes at 41,000 ft, waiting to track the launch at 2:09 AM PST.

NASA DC-8 flight track (red line).  The DC-8 tracked Glory’s launch while flying at 41,000 ft at 7.5S 120W

Instruments installed on the DC-8 by the KTech Corporation first detected Glory approximately four minutes after launch and tracked it for ten additional minutes.  The failure of the fairing (a protective cover) to separate approximately three minutes after launch was revealed in Glory’s unexpected trajectory.

Telemetry data collected by the NASA DC-8 and from other locations will be used to better understand what went wrong.