Noctilucent clouds are rare ‘space clouds’ that are believed to be sensitive indicators of global climate trends. Too high to reach by aircraft yet too low to reach by satellite, Project PoSSUM will explore these clouds using balloons and suborbital manned spacecraft.
Can we build 3-D models of our mesosphere from aircraft observations? Each July, PoSSUM scientist-astronaut candidates image noctilucent clouds from carefully-crafted flight plans around High Level, Alberta when noctilucent cloud activity is at its peak. Together with Athabasca University, ground observations throughout north Alberta are combined with the aircraft images.
What are the dynamics of our upper-atmosphere and what can this say about our changing global climate? In December 2017, PoSSUM instrumentation will fly as part of NASA’s ‘PMC Turbo’ mission to better answer this question by studying noctilucent cloud features over Antarctica. Students from around the world can participate! (credit: NASA)
Are noctilucent clouds a harbinger of climate change? Can manned suborbital spacecraft help us better understand this? NASA thinks so! PoSSUM Scientist-Astronauts will fly instruments around these clouds to build extremely precise 3D models of our upper atmosphere which can help us better address these key questions. (credit: Ross Lockwood)
How well can man perform in space? PoSSUM Members work with Final Frontier Design and Integrated Spaceflight Services to test and evaluate new spacesuits and emerging space technologies in analog environments.
How can we understand how well prototype spacesuits will perform once needed in space? To help answer this, PoSSUM members evaluate spacesuits in analog environments here on Earth including microgravity, high-G, and high-altitude environments!
How well can one operate a spacesuit in a cramped operational environment like in a Soyuz or Dragon capsule? PoSSUM members perform comparable procedures in research aircraft and in simulated spaceflight to find out!
How effectively can one conduct post-landing assisted and unassisted contingency egress operations in IVA spacesuits? PoSSUM members simulate water ingress from parachute descent or capsule egress in varying sea and lighting conditions to find out!
How well can an astronaut in a spacesuit escape from a distressed spacecraft? How can tools be designed that will function well on the Moon or Mars? These are questions that PoSSUM members seek to answer by studying analog microgravity, analog underwater, and analog terrestrial environments with Extravehicular Activity (EVA) spacesuits.