WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- A large U.S. science balloon has beat flight duration record while flying over Antarctica carrying an instrument that detected 50 million cosmic rays, U.S. space agency NASA announced Monday.
The Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (Super-TIGER) balloon was launched on Dec. 8 last year. It has spent 55 days, one hour, and 34 minutes aloft at 127,000 feet while brought down to end the mission on Friday, becoming the longest flight of any heavy-lift scientific balloon.
The previous record was set in 2009 by NASA's Super Pressure Balloon test flight at 54 days and one hour and 29 minutes.
Super-TIGER flew a new instrument for measuring rare elements heavier than iron among the flux of high-energy cosmic rays bombarding Earth from elsewhere in our Milky Way galaxy. The information retrieved from this mission will be used to understand where these energetic atomic nuclei are produced and how they achieve their very high energies.
The balloon gathered so much data it will take scientists about two years to analyze it fully, NASA said.
"This has been a very successful flight because of the long duration, which allowed us to detect large numbers of cosmic rays," said Bob Binns, principal investigator of the Super-TIGER mission. "The instrument functioned very well."