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NASA announces new mission in Costa Rica to study atmosphere

January 19, 2006

Libby Quaid
AP Worldstream

NASA scientists said Thursday they have launched a new, innovative study on climate change using a special aircraft that will enter the high troposphere _ the lowest level of the earth's atmosphere _ in the tropics.

"Costa Rica is a marvelous place to enter the atmosphere," said Paul Newman, one of the NASA project's coordinators. He said the study would look at how the ozone layer is changing and at atmospheric contamination.

The US$8 million (A6.6 million) project involves 140 scientists from the United States and 30 from Costa Rica, Newman told a news conference in San Jose. The study, conducted from a NASA office at the San Jose airport, started Jan. 14 and will end Feb. 12.

During that time, the WB-57F plane will make 12 trips into the high tropical troposphere, which has barely been studied and is believed to have suffered the largest impact from climate change, officials said.

The plane can fly at an altitude of 18,300 meters (60,000 feet) and has 29 instruments to measure atmospheric conditions.

NASA scientist Eric Jensen said the agency is also interested in investigating the properties of clouds at high altitude, which are thin and have temperatures as low as 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) below zero.

In 2004 and 2005, Costa Rican scientists launched 600 balloons to gather data about the atmosphere above Central America.

Copyright 2006 Financial Times Ltd.

Note: The above information is not to be used for any other purpose other than private study, research, criticism or review. Thank you.

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