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NASA overflight happened today!

Today was a great demonstration of total collaboration between many parties all wanting to achieve the same objective; measuring the arctic sea ice.
When Martin and I got invited to an ESA meeting in January we met Nathan of NASA who told us about the Icebridge campaign and their new flight route over Svalbard in the spring.
Their objective is to get a better understanding of the Eastern Arctic, something they haven’t been able to do.
We compared our routes and we quickly decided that NASA should do a flyover over our route to the North Pole.
Many emails, coordination and planning went into this.

Icebridge is coming from Thule Greenland and flew over the icecap measuring ice, snow, temperature en route to Svalbard.
First it appeared NASA was going to be a lot earlier then our planned drop-off but then we got delayed by 4 days and risked to miss NASA all together.
Luckily, as if this important mission was serendipitous, today at 3:30 pm the Icebridge P3 plane flew right over us the coordinates perfectly communicated.
Even a minute of latitude to the east or west, there is the chance of missing us completely on this immense Arctic Ocean.

Back in Svalbard is Kyle – engineer but much more really: a genius with GPS and a neck for coordination.
Our Iridium Rock Star sends GPS coordinates every 15 minutes to NASA.
Kyle compiles them and put them in a document for John Sonntag who instructs the pilots where to go and Nathan who is the project manager keeps an eye out for us from his big window in the plane.
John Woods had given us buoys to deploy when we got dropped off with the helicopter to mark a starting point and one to leave on the day of the fly over.

Just following our GPS coordinates would not be enough since we move and the ice drifts.
Flooded with data  and everybody’s participation, this morning at 7 am we heard to news of the planned flyover for today coming from Henk-Jan our Basecamp manager.
The plane flew first to the North Pole and 30  minutes later we heard the loud engines and saw the contrails aiming right for us.

Martin filmed from below, Jefferson from the plane and the instruments are working hard to process our data.

Why does this matter?
Each day we are doing 50 measurements – 2 km apart to understand the snow depth on the ice.
By flying over us, Icebridge can calibrate our coordinates on the ice with the coordinates they measured and to get a ground check of the snow we measure each day versus the measurements they get from the snow radar on the plane.
In a few weeks we give them our 1250 measurements and plot them against their flight path ( our trek) and examine if the data is consistent.
This was a real highlight and we feel honored to have work with Icebridge,
Thanks Nathan, John, Kyle and Henk-Jan for making this happen today.

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