NASA’s flying laboratory seeks to understand atmosphere

A suite of scientists are zig-zagging across the globe in a flying laboratory, a DC-8 research plane retrofitted to gulp the air we breathe. Soaring from the Arctic to Antarctica on flights crammed with valves, funnels and testing equipment, scientists from NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View and other labs capture greenhouse gases and gather data about pollution in Earth’s atmosphere. The final leg of the four-part expedition of the Atmospheric Tomography Mission, also known as ATom, will take off from Palmdale Thursday. Their mission: Give scientists important information about changes in the composition of gases in the atmosphere.