Weather that could have only been planned by a chamber of commerce greeted the opening weekend of the 45th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico that continues through Oct. 9.
Desert Kaleidoscope was the theme for this year’s festivities, which lived up to its billing. Attendees were close to the action as the graceful giants were unfurled, laid out, inflated and launched onto a canvas of beautiful Southwestern sky.
When the main ballooning events conclude people can see a host of exhibits, including a showcase of NASA’s upcoming and future aeronautics’ projects.
For example, the X-57 electric propulsion aircraft and other proposed aircraft under the New Aviation Horizons initiative will lead to reduced aircraft noise and emissions and maximize fuel economy were represented in models developed for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. NASA’s aeronautics is the focus of Ames Research Center and Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Langley Research Center in Virginia.
A motor and propeller from a 31-foot-span, carbon-composite wing section called the Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed is on display. That research project was a step toward the distributed electric propulsion system developed for the X-57 Maxwell, NASA’s first human-piloted experimental aircraft in more than a decade.
Ivan Berumen learned about the X-57 from NASA representatives and displays.
“It’s a good idea,” he said. “Green technology like that represented in the X-57 will have a positive impact on our environment.”
Dan Weyant also gravitated to the X-plane.
“I am excited this research is happening,” he said. “It is logical to develop a proof of concept aircraft. That’s part of what NASA does.”
For Ian and Faris Wald, they checked out advance concept models including future supersonic aircraft and potential airliners of the future. Ian, a third-grader, said he is a fan of X-planes, such as the X-15 described in the aeronautics displays, as well as Neil Armstrong. Ian said he learned that before Armstrong was the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, he was an X-15 research pilot and now has a NASA center named after him in California.
Another NASA mission is with demonstration-sized scientific balloons from NASA’s Balloon Program Office, which is based and managed at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Staff members are on-site at the fiesta to welcome visitors and answer questions about the balloon program’s mission.
The fall balloon launch campaign is currently underway from the Balloon Program’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, about 150 miles southeast of Albuquerque. The balloon program has two remaining missions based at the Fort Sumner facility this year.
The first of the two missions launching from the New Mexico launch complex is called the Primordial Inflation Polarization Explorer (PIPER) PIPER is a telescope launched by a 34.46-million-cubic-foot scientific balloon on a mission to seek the faint signature of quantum gravity from the first moments after the Big Bang. Scientists and engineers will increase the telescope’s sensitivity by cooling it to nearly absolute zero in order to detect the faint, remnant heat radiation from the Big Bang.
In addition to PIPER, the balloon team will launch a four-million-cubic-foot scientific balloon to test a new low-cost Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) receiver for communications.
People can track the progress of NASA’s scientific balloon flights using online tools that provide altitude and speed, as well as a map showing the balloon’s real-time location here. People may be able to see the balloon from the ground during a mission, especially during sunrise and sunset.
Another event at the NASA exhibit is out of this world. Former NASA astronaut Mike Mullane, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, is scheduled for two presentations on the Space Shuttle Program and life as an astronaut Wednesday, Oct. 5. An aeronautics book give away also is planned for the same day.
NASA Armstrong is lead for the agency’s exhibit at the balloon fiesta.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense