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APE-GAIA
The
Antarctic
Campaign

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A little less than
1,000 km separate
Ushuaia from the
northern tip of the
Antarctic Peninsula.
This makes it an
ideal Antarctic gateway.


The Antarctic campaign will take place from the operative base of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) from 15 September to 14 October 1999.
The choice of the site was determined in the first place by its favourable geographic location: Ushuaia is the southernmost airport in the world able to accommodate the M55-Geophysica, and thus the nearest to the Antarctic continent.
Considering that the polar vortex generally extends to a latitude between 60° and 70° S, and that the operative radius of the M55 is about 15° latitude, departing from Ushuaia the aircraft will be able to reach the vortex, explore its edges, and penetrate its interior. In order to forecast the exact location of the polar vortex and the conditions of the stratosphere - and thus to work out the best routes for the M55 - the flight missions will be planned with the support of meteorological analyses and computer simulations.
A total of 30 hours of flight are scheduled, distributed over 5 or 6 missions. The flight profiles of the M55-Geophysica will mainly respond to the optimum requirements for remote sensing observations: they will be, as far as possible, flight profiles at maximum (20 km) and constant altitude. Occasionally dives will be made to the troposphere, in order to allow in situ measurements.
During the campaign, about 70 scientists will be based in the Argentine town to take care of the different aspects of the mission. This will involve a team of Russian technicians, responsible for the management of the aircraft, a group in charge of scientific and logistic co-ordination, experimental groups responsible for the scientific instruments, and the theoretical groups in charge of modelling and data analysis.
In parallel with M55-Geophysica flights, a series of ground based and balloon measurements will be made from Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, and several bases located in the Antarctic Peninsula region, in order to validate the measurements conducted during the APE-GAIA campaign.
The Antarctic mission will be preceded by a test campaign which the M55-Geophysica will carry out from Forlė airport (Italy) in December 1998.


Launch of a radiosonde from the
Rothera base of the British
Antarctic Survey. Ground based
and balloon measurements
carried out simultaneously with
Geophysica flights are aimed at
confirming the data collected
during the APE-GAIA campaign.
(Courtesy of J. D. Shanklin)