Friday, January 24, 2014

NASA Announces 5 New Missions to Study Earth From Orbit in 2014

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, set to launch in July, will make precise, global measurements of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the largest human-generated contributor to global warming. (Credit: NASA) Click to enlarge.
NASA announced on Wednesday that it has five missions planned for 2014 that are designed to collect much needed data on Earth’s vital signs, from the water cycle, to wind patterns and pollution.  The missions consist of three satellites and two instruments that will join the massive floating laboratory that is the International Space Station.

In just over a month, the first of the satellite missions will launch from Japan’s space center.  The satellite, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory is a joint mission with Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency and will collect detailed observations of global rain and snowfall patterns.

In July, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 will also be launched into Earth’s orbit. The “2” is because the original satellite intended to gather this data, which made a launch attempt back in February 2009, failed to reach orbit and was destroyed as it fell back to Earth.  Once safely up in orbit, OCO-2 will start collecting the most precise measurements of atmospheric CO2 ever made from space.  The satellite will help characterize both artificial and natural sources and sinks at a regional scale, of the greenhouse gas.

The last of the satellites NASA has planned for launch in 2014 is the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, which will monitor the water content in Earth’s soil.  The high-resolution maps of soil moisture the collected data will produce will help researchers studying flooding and droughts as well as help predict area of high plant productivity and agricultural potential.

NASA Announces 5 New Missions to Study Earth From Orbit in 2014

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