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NASA research plane in the arcticNASA has sent an Earth Resources (ER-2) high-altitude science aircraft to Iceland to study the Greenlandic ice-sheet.
The specially designed aircraft will carry out research for about 4 weeks in the high North. It will be based in Keflavík International Airport in Iceland.
A statement from the US embassy of Iceland details the purpose of its mission:
"The mission will assist global warming research by developing better methods to measure the melting of the ice in Polar regions. The ER-2 aircraft will fly high-altitude missions over Greenland in April to test the accuracy of a newly developed laser, the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experiment Lidar, or MABEL. The laser simulates a similar instrument planned for NASA's IceSat-2 environmental satellite scheduled for launch in 2016."
According to NASA, this is a part of a much larger mission called Operation IceBridge. Conducted in the Arctic in March and April and the Antarctic during October and November, NASA says, the mission is "the largest survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown."
The plane is a science laboratory in the air. It routinely flies around 70.000 feet and above, twice the height of a regular commercial airplane.
NASA ER-2s have played an important role in Earth science research because of their ability to fly into the lower stratosphere at subsonic speeds, enabling direct stratospheric sampling as well as virtual satellite simulation missions. The aircraft's unique capabilities enable studies such as stratospheric ozone concentrations over Antarctica and the Arctic.