Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), is the first suborbital crewed research program, studying the upper atmosphere and how it relates to our global climate.
Through Project PoSSUM’s Scientist-Astronaut program, Kellie has received comprehensive instruction on aeronomy, noctilucent cloud science, solar mechanics, and crew resource management, and has completed an intensive training program including high-G training, high-altitude training, pressurized spacesuit training, biometric analysis, and PoSSUMCam instrumentation operations.
In particular, Project PoSSUM’s suborbital research focus is on noctilucent clouds, the highest clouds in Earth’s atmosphere. Forming 83 km (50 miles) above Earth’s surface in the polar summertime, these clouds are considered very sensitive indicators of atmospheric change. In recent decades, noctilucent clouds have been observed with increasing frequency, increasing brightness and at lower latitudes than ever before. Because these clouds require cold temperatures and the presence of water vapor to form — properties tied to carbon dioxide and methane — scientists believe their presence may be directly related to man-made causes of climate change.
Bonus: through the study of noctilucent clouds in our own planet’s upper atmosphere, we can better model and understand high-altitude, low-density clouds on other planets, like Mars.