A GROUP of scientists and technicians travelling around the world aboard a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) DC-8 aircraft to study the impact of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere landed at the Nadi International Airport on Saturday.
The 45-member team are part of the Atmospheric Tomography Mission (AToM).
Atmospheric scientist and deputy principal investigator Michael Prather said scientists aboard the flying laboratory were studying the atmosphere to discover how much pollution survived to the most remote corners of the earth and to assess how the environment in those areas had changed as a result.
"The bulk of the atmosphere processing is in the middle of the Pacific and Atlantic, about 70 per cent of all the chemical activity that makes and destroys greenhouse gases is in this region," he said.
"We sample those to find out how frequently they occur and how active they are.
"The ocean is most of the atmosphere and the Pacific is a big one and that's why we are going from Kona in Hawaii to Fiji to Christchurch."
The NASA DC-8 is a four-engine jet transport aircraft that has been significantly modified to support the agency's airborne science mission.
Built in 1969 and acquired by NASA in 1985, the aircraft is 157 feet long with a 148-foot wingspan.
It has a range of 5400 nautical miles and can fly at altitudes from 1000 to 42,000 feet for up to 12 hours.
The DC-8 can carry 30,000 pounds of scientific instruments and equipment and can seat up to 45 experimenters and flight crew.
The team will return for tests in October and later in 2018.
The NASA DC-8 flew out today.