Nasa cancels plan to use Utapao
Nasa has cancelled its plan to carry out a mission to study clouds and climate in Southeast Asia due to Thailand's failure to grant approval by Thailand in time for the study to begin, its website has announced.
"On June 26, 2012, NASA cancelled the SEAC4RS mission, which was scheduled to begin in August 2012, due to the absence of necessary approvals by regional authorities in the timeframe necessary to support the mission's planned deployment and scientific observation window," the Nasa website announced.
Nasa's twitter site has also announced the cancellation, saying: "We have, unfortunately, had to call off this airborne science mission planned for Southeast Asia this year."
The Thai government has declined to approve Nasa's request to use Utapao and will first hold a parliamentary debate on the issue. However, the parliament will convene the next meeting on August 1, which would be too late for the Nasa to start the mission as scheduled.
The SEAC4RS or the Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study was initially planned to be NASA’s most complex and ambitious airborne science campaign of the year.
Had the plans been approved by the Thai government, the SEAC4RS would take to the field in August. The campaign was led by Brian Toon, chair of the University of Colorado's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.
Dr Toon is a veteran of NASA airborne campaigns, including flights to study the Antarctic ozone hole and the atmospheric effects of volcanic eruptions.
Parliament President Somsak Kiartsuranon said the planned parliamentary debate on Nasa's request would be cancelled now that Nasa would no longer use Utapao.
Informed by reporters of Nasa's announcement, Somsak said he was sorry that Nasa had cancelled the project.
Some scientists believe that Southeast Asia is the primary place where new air is transported into the stratosphere. SEAC4RS is designed to investigate that hypothesis and provide new insights into exactly what the effects are of pollution vapours and tiny particles called aerosols that reach the stratosphere. SEAC4RS is to address issues of global concern, according to information posted on the US space agency’s website.
NASA proposed to base its SEAC4RS aircraft in Thailand so that they can sample the two big meteorological drivers of the region’s atmospheric circulation: the summertime monsoon circulation to the west and marine convection to the east and south that can loft emissions into the stratosphere, NASA said.