NASA’s ER-2 Gathers Forest And Cloud Data Over Northeast U.S.
One of NASA's ER-2 high-altitude Earth resources aircraft is currently flying a series of environmental science missions over the northern and eastern United States. The ER-2 flights over the next month will be staged out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the aircraft arrived June 24.
The ER-2 is carrying two instruments for these science flights, the Airborne Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer, or AVIRIS, developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Cloud Physics Lidar, developed by Sigma Space Corp. for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The AVIRIS collects digital images of forests to determine their health. A healthy forest absorbs more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. With the aircraft flying above 65,000 feet, AVIRIS collects images in swaths more than six miles wide.
The Cloud Physics Lidar is an airborne light detection and ranging system designed specifically for studying clouds and aerosols. Because the ER-2 typically flies at 65,000 feet, its instruments are above 94 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. This allows ER-2 instruments to function as spaceborne instrument simulators by comparing data gathered from aircraft to that gathered from satellites. Although specifically designed for installation and operation on NASA’s ER-2, a second instrument has now been built for use on NASA’s Global Hawk unmanned science aircraft.
Two days after its arrival at Wright-Patterson, NASA’s blue-and-white ER-2 flew over the crowds watching the aerial display of current and historic military aircraft at the Freedom's Call Tattoo event at the National Museum of the Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.
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