On Wednesday, NASA announced a collaboration with the Italian Space Agency ASI (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana) to build and launch the MAIA, or Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols missions.
The joint mission between the two national space agencies will look into the health effects of air pollution in the world's most populous cities.
According to NASA, MAIA is the agency's first mission whose primary goal is to benefit societal health. A satellite mission will be developed directly by epidemiologists and public health researchers.
The MAIA observatory, which is scheduled to launch before the end of 2024, will be comprised of the PLATiNO-2 satellite provided by ASI and a science instrument built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The MAIA mission will gather and analyse data from the observatory, ground sensors, and atmospheric models.
Breathing airborne pollution particles associated with many health problems
“Breathing airborne pollution particles has been associated with many health problems, but the toxicity of different particle mixtures has been less well understood. Working together with colleagues in Italy and around the world, we expect that MAIA will help us understand how airborne particle pollution puts our health at risk and potentially provide insights that will inform the decisions of public health officials and other policymakers,” said NASA’s principal investigator for MAIA, David Diner, in a press statement.
JPL's science instrument will include a "pointable spectropolarimetric camera," which will capture images from various angles in the ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and shortwave infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The MAIA science team will use this data to investigate the size, geographic distribution, composition, and abundance of airborne particles. They will also look into how these factors relate to the patterns and prevalence of health issues caused by poor air quality.
MAIA marks a crucial moment in the history of cooperation between NASA and ASI
“MAIA marks an important moment in the long history of cooperation between NASA and ASI, and it symbolizes the best our two agencies can marshal in terms of expertise, knowledge, and Earth-observation technology,” said Francesco Longo, head of the Earth Observation and Operation Division at ASI.
“The science produced by this joint mission will provide benefits to humanity for years to come,” he added.
The NASA-ASI agreement was finalised in January 2023 and builds on decades of collaboration, including the Cassini mission to Saturn, which launched in 1997.
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