One of NASA’s large science balloons suffered an irreparable leak causing it to crash into the Pacific Ocean, near the coast of New Zealand.
The mission was terminated on May 14, 2023, after attempts to keep the balloon airborne failed a day and a half into its flight.
The super pressure balloon (SPB) was carrying the Extreme Universe Space Observatory 2 (EUSO-2) payload, which was to be used to identify ultra-high energy cosmic ray particles entering the atmosphere and assist researchers in understanding their sources.
According to NASA, the accident was an “anomaly”, and it would be investigated.
“This is an unfortunate end to the mission and we will investigate the cause to help us continue to improve the super pressure balloon technology,” stated Debbie Fairbrother, NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program chief.
This is the second SPB launched as part of NASA’s New Zealand balloon launch campaign. The agency said that the first balloon, which was launched on April 16, 2023, continues to be “performing nominally” and has completed three revolutions about the Earth’s southern hemisphere flying at approximately 108,000 feet.
While the first SPB mission could be considered successful the sunken balloon was NASA’s final New Zealand launch this year.