NASA stop space balloon flight at 124,000 feet after ‘mystery anomaly’ found

NASA boffins have been left scratching their heads after being forced to cancel a mission part way through thanks to a “mysterious anomaly”.

The strange occurrence happened at 124,000 feet in the air above Fort Summer, New Mexico. The FIREBall-2 balloon – which stands for Faint Intergalactic Medium Redshifted Emission Balloon – had been launched last week, in the hope of observing a “component of galaxies that play a key role in how galaxies form and evolve”.

But part way through the mission, when it was flying just west of the city of Clovis, a mysterious “anomaly” was experience by the balloon and the flight was stopped. NASA is now investigating what it could be, with no details yet made public by the boffins.

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A spokesman, giving very few details, said: “After several hours at float, the balloon experienced an anomaly and began descending in altitude. The mission team safely terminated flight at 9:19 p.m. MDT west of Clovis, New Mexico, and NASA is in the process of recovering the payload and balloon.

“The cause of the anomaly will be investigated.”

This is not the first time the FIREBall-2 mission has had issues. The last time it took off was in 2021, but its 2018 mission was stopped for a more blunt reason.

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A spokesman said, at the time: “The flight was terminated early owing to a hole in the balloon, and our original science objectives were not achieved. “The overall sensitivity of the instrument and telescope was 90,000 LU, due primarily to increased noise from stray light.”

NASA admits to using scientific balloons because they are a “quick and cost-effective way” to test, track and recover scientific experiments, however the ones used for the FIREBall-2 mission seemingly have more issues than most. It is not yet known when the balloon will fly again, or if the few hours it spent floating this week wielded any results.

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