In space exploration, the success of a spacecraft intending to make long distance trips depends on the efficiency of its propulsion. One promising technology for the future of space travel is ion propulsion. By accelerating noble gas ions, a force is created by the engine, resulting in small accelerations with high efficiency. Heavier noble gases must be used in order to achieve the highest efficiency. The problem with this is that the heaviest of the noble gases, notably Xenon, are very rare and therefore prohibitively expensive for many private companies attempting to work in space.
The atmospheric conditions created by the mountain waves and high wind speeds over the Andes may have the potential to suspend a host of unexpected elements at the edge of the ‘ignorosphere’. We plan to investigate the composition of the atmosphere at Perlan’s goal altitude in search of elements such as Xenon, which are difficult to find elsewhere. If they are located, these elements could be harvested for use in space travel or other industries that depend on these rare or expensive elements.