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For Release: August 7, 1997

Catherine Watson
(757) 864-6122

Nicole Forest
(757) 864-5036



Rocket Measurements in Conjunction with Space Shuttle Overflight

As the space shuttle Discovery streaks across the New Mexico sky the morning of August 8, a rocket will be launched from the White Sands Missile Range below. That rocket will carry several new instruments for measuring ozone high in the Earth's atmosphere, and those measurements will be compared to data derived from two instruments released into orbit by Discovery.

The Mesosphere-Thermosphere Emissions for Ozone Remote Sensing (METEORS) experiment will be carried to an altitude of 72 miles over the New Mexico desert by a Black Brant sounding rocket. The numerous METEORS instruments will use four independent measurement techniques to measure ozone in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The two experiments deployed by the space shuttle will measure ozone, temperature and other chemical species at the same time but from different angles.

"This experiment is unique in that it is the first time, to my knowledge, that four independent techniques of measuring ozone in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere have ever been used together in the same air mass," said Dr. Marty Mlynczak, principal investigator of the METEORS project and a research scientist at NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

"It gives us an excellent opportunity not only to measure the ozone abundance in this region [of the atmosphere] but to conduct a critical comparison of the techniques themselves," Mlynczak said.

The METEORS instruments will be carried in the top portion of the Black Brant rocket and will begin measurements at an altitude of approximately 30 miles (after the nose cone is deployed). The METEORS instruments will make measurements between the altitudes of 30 and 60 miles (the Earth's mesosphere and lower thermosphere), both on the way up and on the way down. The entire METEORS flight from launch to parachute-assisted landing will last about six minutes.

"Mesospheric ozone is difficult to measure," Mlynczak said. "There is still a long-standing discrepancy between the amount of ozone measured in the mesosphere and that which we predict from chemicals models. The METEORS measurements, coupled with other chemical measurements from the [shuttle] payloads, will add to our understanding of the ozone chemistry of the mesosphere."

METEORS will measure infrared emissions from molecular oxygen, allowing scientists to determine the amount of ozone present. In addition, two small rockets will be launched, one prior to and one after the METEORS launch, to measure temperatures in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere.

"METEORS is a pathfinding mission to an upcoming NASA satellite experiment (TIMED-Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics)," Mlynczak added. Three of the four techniques being tested by METEORS will be used in less than three years aboard the TIMED satellite, which will enable scientists to begin long-term studies of the Earth's upper atmosphere. NASA Langley scientists also will contribute one of the instruments aboard TIMED Mlynczak said.

NASA Langley is leading the METEORS experiment; coordinating the science team activities; and defining the scientific purpose of the mission, the overall goals, the measurements and the instrumentation. The METEORS science team is composed of several university-affiliated research laboratories (including Utah State and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory), NASA centers and private companies. NASA Wallops is providing the rockets which will make the temperature measurements prior to and after the METEORS payload launch. G&A Technical Software in Hampton, Va. is providing data analysis support.

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