What's a good way to gather climatic data in the upper atmosphere? Fly a kite. Tethered weather balloons can't go much above 9,000 feet, and higher-flying untethered balloons or airplanes can't take measurements in one place over a long period. But scientists from the University of Colorado's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES) kept two high-tech kites aloft at 12,000 feet for four days last summer over remote Christmas Island, just north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean.
Based on that success, CIRES researchers believe they can fly a larger, 1,000-square-foot rectangular kite on a high-strength Kevlar tether for weeks or months at 60,000 feet. Each kite could hold up to 22 pounds of instruments to measure such things as water vapor, radiation, ice-crystal structure, electric fields, or temperature--information that would then be relayed digitally to computers on the ground.