Airborne Survey of Polar Ice 2013

What Are They Doing?

NASA's P-3 IceBridge AircraftNASA's P-3 IceBridge Aircraft IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted. IceBridge uses a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated science instruments ever assembled to characterize yearly changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic. The research team experienced first-hand the excitement of flying a large research aircraft over the Greenland Ice Sheet. While in the air they recorded data on the thickness, depth, and movement of ice features, resulting in an unprecedented three-dimensional view of ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice. Operation IceBridge began in 2009 to bridge the gap in data collection after NASA's ICESat satellite stopped functioning and when the ICESat-2 satellite becomes operational in 2016, making IceBridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations of polar ice. IceBridge flies over the Arctic and Antarctic every year—in the Arctic from March to May and the Antarctic in October and November. By comparing the year-to-year readings of ice thickness and movement both on land and on the sea, scientists can look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the polar ice and learn more about the trends that could affect sea-level rise and climate around the globe. More information about IceBridge can be found at the NASA project website.

Where Are They?

View from flight over GreenlandView from flight over Greenland The field campaign for Operation IceBridge was based out of Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland. Once used as an American military base, the settlement is now Greenland's main air transport hub and the site of Greenland's largest commercial airport. The climate in Kangerlussuaq is arctic, with temperatures ranging from -25 to 18 degrees Celsius throughout the year.


The folks at NASA's Operation IceBridge were nice enough to help put together a little public service announcement to help motivate and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Don’t forget to ‘like’ Operation IceBridge's Facebook page or bookmark the official NASA OIB website. If you're on Facebook, I highly recommend the Facebook page. From March 23 – April 19, 2013: Miles flown commercially: 16,000 Miles flown with OIB: 12,000 Total combined miles: 28,000 Number of times vomited on the P-3: 0.5 (It only came up my throat.) Countries visited: 4 (US, Canada, Switzerland, and Denmark – Greenland doesn’t count – it’s still a Danish territory for now) Cities visited: 9 (Chicago, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Seattle, Washington DC, Zurich, Copenhagen, Kangerlussuaq,...
Operation IceBridge had packed up their gear and it was time for me to do the same. As well as doing science and educational outreach, I managed to make a few friends along the way. Scott Farley and Cathy Martin, two of the best pilots you'll meet, wearing Libertyville HS stocking caps! Sitting in the pilot's seat, I felt like a kid again! The hardest part of getting home was leaving Greenland. Not because I wanted to stop flying with NASA’s Operation IceBridge, but because the only way to get home was to fly in the exact opposite direction from home. The only commercial flights...
Michael and Mark
Did I tell you I share a college-sized dorm room with Michael Studinger? He’s the project scientist for Operation IceBridge. He is responsible for ALL the science and scientific data collected. If the project has a central nervous system, Michael is the brain in that model. He has a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Bremen and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany. Who is Alfred Wegener? Oh, only the guy who came up with plate tectonics 50 years ahead of its time. Michael is a world-renown glaciologist and polar researcher in his own right. He...
John Sonntag
John Sonntag is the choreographer of NASA’s Operation IceBridge. As a high schooler in Texas he saw the Omnimax movie The Dream is Alive about NASA’s space program, and he knew then that he wanted to be a part of it. John Sonntag on the left with Robert Harpold in their navigation seats. John is involved in just about every facet of the project, from mission planning to in-flight navigation, from meteorology to data analysis, and from calibration of equipment to worrying about getting the science team all the data they want. He’s also the founding member of the OIB Running Club! There’...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

1 April 2013 to 18 April 2013
Location: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Project Funded Title: Operation IceBridge

Meet the Team

Mark Buesing's picture
Libertyville High School
Libertyville, IL
United States

Mark Buesing confesses that he is not a teacher. At least that's not what he started out as. Mr. Buesing graduated with honors in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana. He worked at both Hughes Aircraft in the Missile Development Division and Motorola in the Cellular Subscriber Division.

In college Mr. Buesing started bicycle racing. As he began receiving wider recognition as a bicycle racer, he accepted an offer to race full time and left Motorola on good terms. While racing, he was selected to train at the Olympic Training Center, was twice the Illinois Rider of the Year, and rode in the 1992 Olympic Trials.

During an off-season from cycling, a physics teacher at a local high school quit. A friend called and asked Mr. Buesing if he could fill in until the school could find a "real" teacher. Mr. Buesing loved engineering, but after a few days in the classroom, felt a calling to be a teacher; he had accidentally discovered what he was meant to do. After retiring from cycling Mr. Buesing completed a Master's in Education and embarked on a teaching career.

"Mr. Mark," as his students call him, teaches Physics and AP Physics at Libertyville High School. He is the head cross country coach and coaches the school's academic decathlon team. He lives in Bristol, WI with his wife, two children, and a dog.

Michael Studinger's picture
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD
United States

Michael Studinger is the Project Scientist for NASA's Operation IceBridge. He received a PhD in Geophysics from the University of Bremen and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Germany, in 1998. He has been a research scientist for over a decade at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. In 2010, he joined the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Michael's research interests include physical processes in polar regions linking subglacial environments, ice sheet dynamics, and life in extreme environments, such as subglacial lakes. He is using integrated sets of aerogeophysical data, including gravity, magnetics, ice-penetrating radar, and laser altimeter measurements, to answer key questions in glaciology. His main research projects focus on the role of subglacial environments in a global framework.

George Hale's picture
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD
United States

George Hale is Operation IceBridge's education and public outreach coordinator and has interests in communicating science to the public and student involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Christy Hansen's picture
Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD
United States

Christy Hansen is Operation IceBridge's Project Manager, and handles all phases of IceBridge from planning and mission operations, to managing data product delivery and meeting all of the project's requirements. She works with all branches of IceBridge, including the aircraft offices, instrument teams, logistics teams, science teams, data center and education/outreach teams. Christy's experience comes from more than 10 years of training astronauts as an instructor in the extra-vehicular activity group and as a flight controller in the Mission Operations Directorate at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In her career with NASA, Christy has worked with the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and Hubble Space Telescope programs.

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