NASA Sounding Rocket Studies the Invisible Aurora

January 29, 2015 9:23 PM

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NASA Sounding Rocket Studies the Invisible Aurora

"All or Nothing!" that is what my Dean called it; "Just like the shootout at the OK corral, how exciting," were her final words to me after I described what I would be doing this January in Alaska. I am the Principle Investigator for the NASA Auroral Spatial Structures Probe (ASSP), a 70-foot, four-stage unmanned rocket loaded with scientific instruments sitting on the launch pad now in Alaska. After four years of planning, building and testing at NASA Wallops Flight Facility and at the Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory, it is all coming down to a call, my call, as to when to launch.

The aurora borealis is beautiful, awe-inspiring, and far more dynamic and crisp than pictures seem to capture. Those who see it for the very first time often comment on how much it moves in the sky and how detailed the structure of the curtains are and how quickly it can evolve into whole new patter...

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