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The Arctic from the skies: NASA shares its best polar aerial shots of our planet's polar regions

The Antarctic summer sun beats down on the frozen continent in this December 2012 shot. Photo: NASA/Christy Hansen

The Antarctic summer sun beats down on the frozen continent in this December 2012 shot. Photo: NASA/Christy Hansen


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, August 25, 2013, 4:16 PM -

NASA satellites often beam back pictures of our planet's polar ice caps, but orbital shots don't quite  convey the majestic, desolate beauty of the Arctic and Antarctic the same way a flyover does.

Enter: NASA's IceBridge project, which recently released this video of the best of its 2013 ice survey flights:

The IceBridge flights, taking place in both the Arctic and Antarctic, are part of six-year mission to monitor changes in polar ice. 

Here's a breakdown of the science behind the mission (and more awesome aerials of the polar regions), posted to the YouTube channel of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre a few days ago:

The flights - conducted by DC-8 and P3 aircraft, among others - began in 2009, ironically because of a satellite malfunction. NASA used to rely on its Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) to keep an eye on the polar regions, but the orbiter malfunctioned in 2009, making the IceBridge flights necessary. The program is "bridging" the gap between 2009 and 2016, when ICESat's replacement, ICESat-2, is scheduled for launch.

In the meantime, IceBridge is going strong. The program recently wrapped up this year's Arctic flights, based in Greenland, and announced its next Antarctic mission will fly out of McMurdo Station.

It's not just NASA; The Weather Network's Mark Robinson and George Kourounis are on their own tour of Canada's Arctic regions. +

For more videos of what's IN the skies, especially active weather, check out our video gallery.

Six polar explorations that didn't make it

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