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© Sébastien CHASTANET / CNES / OMP / IRAP / UT3 / CNRS Photothèque
Rehearsing launch operations on the asphalt at the Alice Springs balloon launch base in Australia. Before a stratospheric balloon is launched, the flight assembly must be set up. This generally consists of the gondola and its payload of scientific instruments, but also a radar transponder, parachutes to enable a controlled landing during the balloon's post-mission descent, and a small auxiliary balloon from which the gondola is suspended pending lift-off. Measurements are more economical and simpler to perform using balloons than using satellites. Balloons are able to gather data that would be impossible to collect using ground-based telescopes, as the Earth's atmosphere partially blocks cosmic radiation. The Alice Springs facility's location in the southern hemisphere enables astrophysicists and astronomers to observe heavenly bodies such as the Magellanic Clouds and internal regions of the Milky Way, which are only visible from this hemisphere.