NASA is set to launch VISIONS-2 rocket to get a closer look at the how the earth’s atmosphere is leaking into space. The VISIONS-2 mission, Visualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2, is scheduled to be launched on December 4. Understanding atmospheric escape on earth has applications all over the Universe, from predicting which planets might be habitable, to piecing together how Mars became a desolate landscape. A sounding rocket makes brief, targeted flights into space before falling back to Earth just a few minutes later. Sounding rockets are unique among scientific spacecraft for their superior dexterity. They can be carted to remote locations, where they are aimed and shot into short-lived events, like the sudden formation of the aurora borealis, at a moment’s notice. The aurora borealis is of keen interest to the VISIONS-2 team, but not just for its otherworldly glow. The aurora play are fundamental drivers in the process of atmospheric escape, whereby planets, including Earth, gradually leak their atmosphere into space.
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