August 26, 2019
Latest News
European Union

Spanish team use innovative WindSled to collect data for NASA in Antarctica

 A handout image of the

A handout image of the "Unexplored Antarctic 2018-2019" expedition made available on Feb 9, 2019. EFE/Handout

Johannesburg, Feb 9 (efe-epa).- A team of Spanish scientists returned from a 52-day expedition to the Antarctic using an innovative and environmentally friendly WindSled, a vehicle with large kites that use polar winds to travel, where they collected data for a range of projects such as NASA space missions to Mars, the team told EFE on Saturday.

The "Unexplored Antarctic 2018-2019" expedition started its journey home with a first stop in Cape Town, South Africa, after extensive data collection and analysis in the South Pole for a variety of projects including geo-location of the Galileo system for the European Space Agency and testing of sensors that were created for a Nasa space mission to Mars, Ramón Larramendi, designer of the Inuit WindSled, an agile eco-vehicle that can travel efficiently across immense icy plateaus, told EFE.

"To be in deep Antarctica is the closest thing to going on a journey to another planet, the closest thing to going to the Moon," Larramendi said.

"We were totally isolated in absolutely extreme conditions. You feel the solitude, the purity, there is space all around you, the horizon infinite," he added.

Joining Larramendi on the polar expedition were Ignacio Oficialdegui, Hilo Moreno, Manuel Olivera and some 2 tonnes of equipment which mostly belonged to the structure of the WindSled.

The one-of-a-kind vehicle uses a system of multiple sails that are up to 150 square meters (492 square feet) large and capable of extending up to 200 meters high, allowing the drivers to make the most of winds depending on their intensity and direction.

This sophisticated system is the first in history that can travel across the Antarctic in an entirely clean way with no polluting emissions. As well as being a vehicle it has an integrated mobile infrastructure in which the explorers and scientists can run tests and collect data.

The WindSled is also considerably cheaper to run than other, more traditional, missions which normally rely on building a base and maintaining it.

"It is an obligation to operate within the Antarctic in a clean way," Larramendi continued. "The Antarctic Treaty (which entered into force in 1961 and regulates international relations in the Antarctic) establishes that impact has to be minimal and there are environmental protocols which would be considered absolutely extreme if you were to compare them to those of another location."

"Within this environment, which is the last area of virgin land on Earth, this (WindSled) is the first zero-emissions system that exists," he said.

"With the sled you don't need a piece of infrastructure, there is barely any maintenance involved and you have access to millions of square kilometers. Conceptually, it is totally different to anything else out there and it has enormous potential," Larramendi added.

The cutting-edge vehicle-come-laboratory presents so many advantages that Larramendi hopes this last visit, his third with the WindSled but first expedition to collect scientific data, could be the seed for an official and regular Spanish Antarctic programme.

WindSled's latest mission completed a 2,538-kilometer circular route in an area in inland Antartica that has barely been explored to date.

The vehicle was modified for this trip as it was forced to travel with much more weight than in previous explorations, it still performed brilliantly with no glitches or accidents.

"Even though we had high hopes for it (WindSled), it has surprised us," the Spanish explorer said.

"It is in great condition after the trip, to the point it could head off on another Antarctic mission tomorrow." Larramendi continued.

The Antarctic winds dragged the team all the way to Dome Fuji, a mammoth ice dome on the East Antarctic sheet that sits 3,810 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level.

"We were totally depleted of oxygen, but what we did prove was that we were able to ascend with WindSled," the Spaniard added.

During the expedition, the team braved temperatures of up to -42 degrees C, and there were days they were paralyzed due to a lack of winds.

When describing the experience of being in the vast expanse of snow and ice Larramendi compared it to an extra-terrestrial experience: "In truth, you get the feeling you are on another planet, you know one day you will return but you are in another reality in which you are incredibly fragile," he said.

"You also have to be extremely cautious in order to survive because this isn't an environment that was made for man and any mistakes come at a high price," he added.

By Nerea González

News history

By Jesus Centeno

Vienna, Jun 28 (efe-epa).- Discrimination, racism, inequality, child poverty. The European Union is still the scene of serious violations of fundamental...

Design guru's exit marks Apple shift from products to services

By Tripp Mickle

Heatwave triggers vast wildfire in northeast Spain that engulfs 13,600 acres

Tarragona, Spain, Jun 27 (efe-epa).- A heatwave that has engulfed Western Europe in recent days has kindled the first serious wildfires in Spain this year...

From NY's Stonewall revolt to old age frailty, back to closet

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

US oil exports jump due to turmoil in Mideast

By Ryan Dezember

Stocks: Defense shares surge on spending

New York (USA), Jun 25 (efe-epa).- The United States may have held off on an airstrike against Iran in favor of sanctions, but US stock investors are...

Iran says new US sanctions end any chance of diplomacy

By Sune Engel Rasmussen in Beirut, Aresu Eqbali in Tehran and Dov Lieber in Jerusalem

Repairs to Harry and Meghan's new home cost UK taxpayers $2.8 million

Madrid, Jun 25 (efe-epa).- The official home that Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom has given to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was refurbished using...

3 Chinese banks deny being probed by US in relation to North Korea sanctions

Beijing, Jun 25 (efe-epa).- Three Chinese banks have denied that they were involved in any investigation related to possible violations of North Korea...

Revote in Istanbul rebukes Erdogan

By David Gauthier-Villars

Mercedes dominant in practice ahead of French F1 GP, finishing 1-2 twice

Paul Ricard Circuit (France), Jun 21 (efe-epa).- Mercedes put on a dominant performance in both free practice sessions at the Circuit Paul Ricard race track...

Apple explores shift away from China

By Yoko Kubota and Tripp Mickle

Real Madrid reinforces its defense with new signing Mendy

Madrid, Jun 19 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid reinforced its defensive lineup with the inclusion of France left-back Ferland Mendy who was presented to fans at the...

What to know about Libra cryptocurrency

New York (USA), Jun 19 (efe-epa).-Facebook just disclosed the first details of its long-anticipated cryptocurrency, called Libra, according to a Dow Jones...

Real Madrid unveils new forward Rodrygo: I hope to make Madrid fans happy

Madrid, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid unveiled the latest component of its new squad for the upcoming season, Brazilian forward Rodrygo, at its Santiago...

Former UEFA president Platini held over awarding 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar

Paris, Jun 18 (EFE).- Former UEFA president Michel Platini has been arrested on suspicion of corruption linked to a decision to award the 2022 World Cup to...

US says Israel not invited to Bahrain Conference

Washington, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- The White House said it won't invite the Israeli government to the unveiling of the economic part of its Israeli-Palestinian...

North Korea lobs insults at US but shields Trump

Seoul, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- A year after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's historic first meeting with President Donald Trump, his government is once again...

China biotech companies poach US talent

Hong Kong (China) Jun 17 (efe-epa).- China-based biotechnology startups looking to go global are poaching talent from the biggest American pharmaceutical...

Toyota in pole at Le Mans with Kobayashi driving, Alonso, 2nd, dreams of win

Le Mans (France), Jun 14 (efe-epa).- The driver Kamui Kobayashi secured pole position in his Toyota TS050 ahead of 24 hours of Le Mans, leaving second-place...

HSBC boosts role as Saudi banker

By Rory Jones in Dubai and Margot Patrick in London

Nintendo shifts some production from China

By Takashi Mochizuki

Pepsi executive picked to lead UK's Reckitt

By Saabira Chaudhuri

I agree Welcome to news4europe.eu. We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.