NASA Earth Science Update
NASA officials gave a briefing at NASA headquarters today to discuss NASA's Earth science program and preview major activities planned for 2008, including the launch of two new Earth-observing missions and a weather satellite.
Presentation by Alan Stern, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate (316 Kb)
Eyes on Earth
Learn more about NASA spacecraft studying our home planet.
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Ocean Surface Topography Mission
The Ocean Surface Topography Mission on Jason-2 (OSTM/Jason-2), a next-generation satellite oceanography mission that will measure the topography of Earth's oceans to study ocean circulation, climate change and sea level rise, is planned for launch no earlier than June 15, 2008, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Designed to operate for at least three years, OSTM/Jason-2 will extend to two decades the long-term record of these measurements that began with the very successful Topex/Poseidon mission (1992-2005) and continues today with Jason (2001 to present). Observing and understanding how ocean surface topography evolves in the next decade is vital to understanding long-term climate change.
OSTM/Jason-2 will serve as a bridge to future operational missions that will continue collection of these multi-decadal ocean topography measurements for use in a variety of societal applications in the areas of marine meteorology, operational oceanography, seasonal prediction and climate monitoring.
While Topex/Poseidon and Jason were collaborations between NASA and the French Space Agency, Centre Nationale d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), OSTM/Jason-2 will be developed and operated as a four-party international collaboration among NASA, CNES, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), with the intent of transferring the responsibility for this measurement beyond OSTM/Jason-2 to the operational community.
-- Extend the time series of ocean surface topography measurements beyond Topex/Poseidon and Jason to complete two decades of high-precision altimetry observations
-- Determine how ocean circulation varies over long time periods using the combined data record from Topex/Poseidon and Jason
-- Improve the knowledge of the ocean circulation that does not change with time
-- Measure global sea level change
--Improve coastal ocean tide models
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Orbiting Carbon Observatory
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) is a new NASA Earth orbiting mission that will collect precise global measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) from space. Scheduled for launch in December 2008 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., OCO will improve our understanding of the natural processes and human activities that regulate the abundance, distribution and absorption of this important greenhouse gas, a critical component of Earth's atmosphere that traps heat near Earth's surface and contributes to climate change and whose concentrations have increased by about 25 percent since the beginning of the industrial age. This improved understanding will enable more reliable forecasts of future changes in the abundance and distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere and the effect that these changes may have on Earth's climate.
Using a space-based platform, OCO will collect a far greater number of high-resolution measurements than are currently available through ground-based sites, allowing scientists to see the distribution of CO2 over the entire globe. This information could help policy makers and business leaders make better decisions to ensure climate stability and, at the same time, retain our quality of life.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will lead the OCO effort. Orbital Sciences Corporation and Hamilton Sundstrand Sensor Systems will partner with JPL to realize this vital mission.
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