NASA has announced a unique Earth science mission seeking to study greenhouse gases and vegetation health from space.
Aimed at enhancing the understanding of natural exchanges of carbon between the Earth's land, atmosphere and ocean, the core of the mission will be a satellite called the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, or GeoCARB.
The satellite mission will take real-time measurements of carbon dioxide and methane. The mission will be led by Berrien Moore of the University of Oklahoma.
According to NASA, the satellite will watch the Americas from an orbit of 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above the equator.
Michael Freilich, director of Earth Science Division of NASA's Science Mission in Washington described GeoCARB mission as a "new ground for NASA's Earth science and applications programs."
Significance Of The Mission
In addition to the Earth science mission's focus on greenhouse gasses and vegetation as core indicators of the planet's health, GeoCARB will also track "solar-induced fluorescence,"which is an index of light emitted by plants during the process of photosynthesis after absorbing energy from the Sun.
That data will help researchers to determine how plants have been growing and the levels of light released. The GeoGARB mission will also take vital data on carbon sinks, which are natural environments like forests in assessing the pace of carbon processing.
The data will also expose the overall concentration of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane in the atmosphere in a horizontal ground resolution extending to six miles.
The Earth Science Mission will have a funding of $166 million for the next five years in terms of initial development and launch of hosted payload. Selection of the mission was made from 15 proposals received by NASA covering small orbital investigations.
However, concerns are looming over NASA funding for Earth-related projects, after Bob Walker, senior Advisor to President-elect Donald Trump told media that the new administration would chop NASA's funding on climate research.
In his view, NASA's core role is in deep space research. Therefore, earth-centric science should be better handled by other agencies with a prime focus on it.
ISS-RapidScat Mission Ends
Meanwhile, NASA's International Space Station-Rapid Scatterometer Earth science instrument has ended the operations after a two-year mission aboard the space station.
Launched on Sept. 21, 2014, (ISS-RapidScat) has been successful in using the vantage point of the space station in providing real-time monitoring of ocean winds to predict regional weather patterns.
The wind speed over the ocean surface came handy to many agencies in improving marine forecasting and monitoring of tropical cyclone.
"As a first-of-its-kind mission, ISS-RapidScat proved successful in providing researchers and forecasters with a low-cost eye on winds over remote areas of Earth's oceans," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division.