NSF Ship Delivers Emergency Provisions to Russian Antarctic Base
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Tonight and during the early hours of Thursday morning (EST), the National Science Foundation research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, plans to deliver approximately four tons of food to Russia's Mirny station. Thirty-eight people are spending the dark Antarctic winter on the Russian base, where temperatures are currently approximately 15 degrees Celsius below zero.
"Without NSF's aid, the Russian station's supplies would run out within several days," said Erick Chiang. The Russian resupply ship, Akademik Federov normally supplies the station, but is behind schedule due to mechanical problems. It is expected to reach another Russian station, Molodezhnayav within a week and to arrive at Mirny within several weeks. Currently, the Akademik Federov is operating at only about 70 percent of its propulsion capacity.
The U.S. National Science Foundation, which runs the U.S. Antarctic Research Program, has agreed for humanitarian reasons to provide emergency provisions to Mirny.
The Nathaniel B. Palmer routinely carries extra provisions because of the uncertainty of conditions in the Antarctic winter. The ship, one of two ice-breaking research vessels operated by NSF, was in the vicinity of Mirny on a scientific cruise to study circulation of the world ocean as part of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE). The cruise began in South Africa and will end in Hobart, Australia; the cruise track follows the edge of Antarctica's sea ice. The humanitarian diversion to Mirny, requires only a minor (about 5 degrees of longitude) deviation from the planned course.
Mirny is the logistics base for a Russian inland station, Vostok, home of a U.S.-Russian-French ice core project which has produced the world's longest ice core for climate studies. Mirny is essential for Vostok's maintenance. Vostok is currently closed for the winter due to budget constraints. If Mirny is not resupplied, and if an emergency evacuation is necessary, next summer's research at Vostok could be threatened.
The NSF funds and manages the U.S. Antarctic Research Program. Each year, some 2,500 Americans support research on the Southern most continent. The NSF operates three year- round research stations and two research ships. On U.S. bases, the summer population exceeds 1,000 residents; about 250 people winter over.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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