NASA at the North Pole
by Steve Graham, Claire Parkinson, and Mike Comberiate May 21, 1999
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Portable Satellite Dish
(left) Chief Scientist Dr. Claire Parkinson operates the ice auger while Webcast Moderator Steve Graham describes the process during a "polar" webcast. (right) Communications Engineer Andre Fortin completes an Iridium phone call from the North Pole.

Artist's rendering of the TDRS-1 satellite.

next Communications and Science


Imagine this: Out in space at an altitude of 22,300 miles, a 16 year—old, 2.5—ton NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-1) points her 24 Karat gold—plated 16—ft antenna right on the spot where a small group of NASA engineers and scientists have just landed their ski plane on the ice floes (floating sheets of ice) at the North Pole. Quickly they unload the "big blue box" containing their portable ECOMM satellite ground station, connect the video camera, mount the 18-inch "pizza pan" antenna on its tripod, and whip it around to find the TDRS-1 satellite at only 0.9 degrees above the horizon. Suddenly, they're connected to the Internet and students all over the world are participating in a virtual field trip to the North Pole! "What's that you have in your hand?", asks a student from Pennsylvania. "This is an ice auger bit and here's how we are using it to measure the thickness of the ice floes at the North Pole," answers the Chief Scientist. This is outrageous educational outreach, reaching the next generation of our planet's caretakers right on their own computers.

This story–A Spot on the Ice Flow–was featured on NPR's Morning Edition.