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EBEX: THE LARGEST BALLOON PAYLOAD EVER FLOWN

EBEX Balloon Launch Image 72dpi.jpg
                                                       

The EBEX balloon flight was launched on December 29, 2012 from McMurdo Base in Antarctica. A video of the beautiful launch is available here.

The balloon followed a rough circular path roughly around the Antarctic continent http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/map/balloon11/balloon2.htm. The flight was terminated on January 23, 2013 and the payload landed on the Antarctic plateau, about 400 miles north of the launch site. Parts of the payload including the data discs and other electronic crates were recovered on February 2. The receiver and gondola will spend the next 12 months on the Antarctic ice and will be recovered next year.

Danny Ball of NASA's ballooning facility said that “EBEX is as heavy as any payload CSBF has launched in modern times…. 8,000 lbs suspended. Physically, it is the largest payload ever flown by any balloon program in the world.”

The principal investigator of the EBEX mission is Dr. Shaul Hanany of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota. EBEX, or E and B Experiment, took measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation, a radiation that is a relic remnant of the big bang. The aim of the experiment to understand the physical processes that took place at or very near the big bang. Signatures of these physical processes may appear as specific patterns in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

EBEX is an international collaboration with experimental contributions by Minnesota, Columbia University, McGill, Brown and UC Berkeley. The experiment was shipped to Antarctica in September, and assembly at McMurdo began in late October 2012.

"Balloon experiments are notoriously difficult and it takes a special team of people to make them happen", said Hanany. "Luckily, we have a fantastic team - excellently skilled, and very dedicated - who pulled this together in the face of real challenges. We are very happy to have had a successful flight."

The Minnesota Antarctic team included Research Associate Asad Aboobaker, graduate students Jeff Klein, Kate Raach, Kyle Zilic, Dr. Milligan (former student and now at MSI) and PI Hanany. The EBEX team is now busy analyzing the data.

Support for EBEX is provided by a NASA grant.