Blast off! Argentina’s collaboration with NASA launches, whilst another big bang in Chile proves a pain.
Argentina’s Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (National Commission for Activity in Space – CONAE) celebrated the successful launch on Friday of the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, a collaborative project led by the Argentinian agency and NASA.
Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 0720 local time on a Delta II rocket, the satellite is equipped with instruments to measure to key climatic functions: the water cycle and ocean circulation.
By measuring the salinity of water, the satellite will provide information on how water moves within the world’s oceans. An in-depth exploration of its role can be found on the BBC website here.
The satellite was assembled in Bariloche by a team of more than 200 technicians. Five of the eight instruments on the satellite were also developed in Argentina. This is the first major space project undertaken by Argentina and in a video conference on Friday, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner celebrated ‘what pride there is in being Argentinian’ adding that ‘this is the fruit of our universities, of Conicet (the country’s scientific research council) and CONAE’.
Other input came from Brazil, Canada, Italy and France.
In other news, clouds of volcanic ash from the eruption of the Puyehue in Chile – reported on pulsamérica here – have crossed the Andes this week, causing disruption in the south of Argentina.
Whilst the majority of flights between the two countries are set to return to normal on Monday, during the week six airports were closed, with Bariloche – one of Patagonia’s foremost tourist destinations – set to remain shut until June 21.
The ash has affected 10 of Argentina’s 26 provinces, with a fine dusting of volcanic material even covering cars in greater Buenos Aires. The 150,000 strong population of Bariloche have faced electricity and water shortages, closed schools and called a general shutdown on work for all but the emergency services. Citizens have been recommended not to leave home except in essential cases.
The ‘Pino Hachado’ mountain pass that connects the two countries in the south remains shut.
Finally, controversy surrounding the Madres de Plaza de Mayo (the Mother’s of May Square) following revelations surrounding the misappropriation of funds destined for a public housing plan has continued to grow.
An investigation undertaken by the opposition party the ‘Civic Coalition’ has shown that a mere 35% of the 420,000 houses that were planned to be built by the project have been completed. Furthermore, the investigation suggests that each building has gone 256% over cost, spurring questions over both the efficiency and moral scruples of the organisation.