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Speaker talks about Perlan Project

Perlan II
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Perlan II. Photo Credit: the Perlan Project. (click image to view full size)
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Sugar Valley Comp Squadron Hosts Michael Batalia, Ph.D.

6/16/2017––The Sugar Valley Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol has explored many aspects of flight and aviation in its monthly speaker series. The June topic, with speaker Michael Batalia, Ph.D., explored the potential use of gliders in researching how stratospheric mountain waves affect the earth’s atmosphere, the ozone layer and the weather. Batalia, a member of the Perlan Project team, shared the history and the mission of the Perlan Project, a non-profit aeronautical and scientific research project.

So how did the Perlan Project get started? Glider pilots have “surfed” mountain waves since the 1930’s and began experimenting with soaring to higher altitudes early on, reaching as high as 46,267 feet in 1961 and 49,009 feet in 1986. A mountain wave is produced when a strong wind blows over a mountain peak from a direction perpendicular to the mountain range. Einar Enevoldson, a NASA test pilot, theorized that these mountain waves could take gliders into the stratosphere over certain mountain ranges closer to the Poles in winter. An additional discovery of the “Polar Vortex” which produces incredibly high winds way up in the stratosphere revealed the possibility that together these might create favorable conditions for gliders to soar to the edge of space. The Perlan Project was started to explore these waves and to research the stratosphere in engineless aircraft. Flying much slower than rockets and powered aircraft, a glider could reveal what might otherwise not be measurable.
Perlan I, the first research glider, was flown by Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson to an altitude of 50,722 feet using the mountain waves of Patagonia, Argentina in 2006. Since that achievement, the team has been working on Phase 2, the Perlan II, a glider designed to soar to 90,000 feet and fly in conditions similar to the atmosphere on Mars. Perlan II will be transported to Argentina this summer to begin test flights, with the goal of reaching at least 52,000 feet this summer and increasing the altitude each season. 
Along with the scientific research of how these stratospheric waves impact weather on Earth, STEM projects like this offer inspiration to young people interested in careers in science and aviation research and exploration.
Michael Batalia, Ph.D., an active member of the Piedmont Soaring Society, works with an international team on the Perlan Project: pilots, engineers, educators, scientists, designers and administrators, all volunteering their time and expertise to explore and contribute to a better understanding of the weather on our planet.
The Sugar Valley Composite Squadron meets every Tuesday from 6:30-8:30 at the Sugar Valley Airport in Mocksville.