This tiny plane flying over ice sheets as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge mission in Alaska. With little to interrupt the seemingly-endless sheets of white, this cheery red plane flies in summer and fall to monitor glaciers and sea ice while measuring clouds and greenhouse gas concentrations.

Advertisement

Top image: Operation IceBridge's trusty DHC-3 Otter. Credit: Chris Larsen/University of Alaska-Fairbanks

Advertisement

Operation Icebridge is a NASA mission that surveys polar ice. They've been flying monitoring flights over ice sheets, sea ice, and glaciers since 2009, with the most recent campaign flying March 12th to May 23rd, 2014 and an Antarctic compaign October 14 to November 23, 2014. The survey flies in cooperation with scientists with the European Space Agency and other groups.

Flight coverage map for the 2014 Arctic Operation Icebridge campaign. Image credit: NASA/M. Studinger

Advertisement

Laster altimeter to measure ice topography. Image credit: NASA

This particular cheery little plane is Operation IceBridge's Otter, a rugged bush plane designed in Canada to tolerate harsh winter conditions and able to take off or land in short distances. It's one of four aerial platforms for the operation along with a Douglas DC-8, a Gulfstream V (GV), and a Lockheed P3. While this particular plane flies in Alaska, Greenland is a popular target for the others.

Advertisement

A occasionally encounters a literal ice bridge. Image credit: NASA

Along with all the very serious science they accomplish, Operation IceBridge also provides companionship to the large polar bear mascot of the local university when it dries out post-game in their hanger.

Advertisement