Investigations in the Stratosphere


    THERE are now two bodies in Russia intent on surveying the scientific and other possibilities of the upper atmosphere. They are the Society for Aviation and Chemical Warfare, with outside experts and with M. Dubenski, assistant director of the Military Aviation Academy, as chairman of the commission, and a more civilian type of composite body drawn from the Leningrad Institute of Aerology, the Radio Institute and the Central Geophysical Laboratory. The former organisation was responsible for the successful flight of Stratostat USSR, piloted by M. Prokofiev last September, as well as that ending in disaster on January 30 this year. If one can judge from the reports from Russian newspapers, these two schools are sharply divided on the question of manned and unmanned balloons respectively. The military organisation, the programme of which is the study of ultra-violet solar radiation and atomic disintegration by cosmic rays, is concentrating its attention on shock-absorbers, gliders, parachutes, etc., in order to safeguard future crews from disaster. The civil body, however, is specialising upon further improvements in automatic registering devices to be attached to balloonets after the manner of Regener's, whose work with these down to a pressure of 22 mm. (about 28 kilometres up) has not yet been superseded. The new device consists of a string of two or three such elastic balloonets each about 2 metres in diameter on the ground, filled with hydrogen for carrying the self-recording devices. A trial has already been made with one such balloonet. This reached a maximum altitude-of 18-6 kilometres and was followed during its ascent by theodolite observations. It automatically transmitted radio signals of pressure, temperature and hygrometric data on a wave-length of 25 metres. Unfortunately, the apparatus has been lost. In a new apparatus which was to be ready by the end of March, there were to be added cosmic ray intensity and gas analysis transmissions and a camera. This work of the Institute of Aerology is a very laudable enterprise and the results will be awaited with interest.

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