Follow this link to skip to                                      the main content

Text Size

NASA and the International Polar Year
The International Polar Year (IPY) is a two-year event that focuses science and education on Earth's remote polar regions. IPY, which starts March 1, 2007, was established by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization to recognize the 125th anniversary of the first polar year and the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year.

Scientists from over 60 nations are participating, including researchers from NASA and many other U.S. agencies. The National Science Foundation is the lead agency for coordinating U.S. IPY activities. IPY extends through March 1, 2009, to allow researchers to conduct two annual observing cycles in each polar region.

This will be the first IPY in which scientists will be able to study the polar regions from a truly global perspective. Vastly more information is now available on the poles, much of it from satellite observations, providing new insights into the poles themselves and how they are connected to the rest of the Earth system.

IPY marks the beginning of a sustained effort to understand large-scale environmental change in Earth's polar regions, which have major societal and economic impacts, and to advance new scientific frontiers, from the molecular to the planetary scale. NASA brings a unique perspective to IPY, which will focus on five themes:

NASA explores scientific frontiers in Earth's polar regions. These regions are ripe for discovery, from the changing flow of ice sheets and glaciers including the unknown regions beneath Antarctica to the outermost reaches of the atmosphere over the poles. NASA's vantage point from space and unique technical capabilities aid many U.S. agencies that monitor the current and future health of our planet.

NASA’s long-term measurements of Earth's poles have opened a new era in understanding how changes in the polar regions influence the rest of the planet, and vice versa. Continuous satellite records made possible only since the founding of NASA half a century ago are revealing where and how the poles influence global environmental change.

NASA creates cutting-edge technologies for exploring the poles that reveal a more complete view of these remote regions than has ever been possible. New scientific instruments have allowed researchers to map the surface of the Antarctic in unprecedented detail and to measure how much the polar ice sheets are shrinking. Airborne and robotic technologies let scientists probe extreme environments that are otherwise inaccessible.

NASA's investment in exploring Earth's poles has built the foundation for a new era of scientific exploration at Mars polar regions, which hold critical clues about the habitability of the Red Planet. A NASA spacecraft is now studying the Martian climate to track the seasonal rise and fall of the planet's atmosphere and the ice and frost at the Martian poles. This year NASA sends a robotic laboratory to probe the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil.

NASA's mission to extend human exploration into the solar system begins with creating a base in the polar regions of the moon. Learning how best to "live off the land" on the moon requires a better understanding of the extreme conditions and available resources at the lunar poles. NASA returns to the moon with a lunar robotic orbiter to launch during IPY.

Related link:

+ NASA Funds IPY Exploration and Research