Washington: For the first time in the last ten years, five NASA Earth science missions are set to be launched into space in the same year, opening new and improved remote eyes to monitor changing Earth.
The five launches, including two to the International Space Station (ISS), are part of an active year for NASA Earth science researchers, who also will conduct airborne campaigns to the poles and hurricanes, develop advanced sensor technologies, and use satellite data and analytical tools to improve natural hazard and climate change preparedness.
The first NASA Earth science mission of 2014 is the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint satellite project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The GPM Core Observatory is scheduled to launch on Feb. 27 from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on a Japanese H-IIA rocket.
In July, NASA will launch a mission to advance our understanding of carbon dioxide’s role in climate change. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, a replacement for a mission lost after a launch vehicle failure in 2009, will make precise, global measurements of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the largest human-generated contributor to global warming.
OCO-2 observations will be used to improve understanding of the natural and human-induced sources of carbon dioxide and how these emissions cycle through Earth’s oceans, land and atmosphere.
With the November launch of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, NASA will track Earth’s water into one of its last hiding places: the soil. SMAP will map Earth’s soil moisture, and provide precise indications of the soil’s freeze-thaw state, to improve understanding of the cycling of water, energy, and carbon.
Two Earth science missions will be sent to the International Space Station this year to measure ocean winds, clouds, and aerosols, marking NASA’s first use of the orbiting laboratory as a 24/7 Earth-observing platform. The new instruments are the first of a series that will observe Earth routinely from the orbiting laboratory.