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From 22,000 miles above Americas, NASA's first GeoCARB mission to monitor plant health and vegetation stress!

It will also help advance the understanding of Earth’s natural exchanges of carbon between the land, atmosphere and ocean.


From 22,000 miles above Americas, NASA's first GeoCARB mission to monitor plant health and vegetation stress!
(Image for representational purposes only)

New Delhi: The power of the impact of climate change over the years has gradually made it a global cause of concern. Its haunting effects made the nations of the world come together in Paris for a summit to join hands and their powers against the phenomenon.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), since 1990, US greenhouse gas emissions have increased by about 7 percent and it is one of the nations with the biggest carbon footprint.

Furthermore, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.

To change this and expand its purview, NASA has initiated a first-of-its-kind Earth science mission, that it says will extend America's lead in measuring key greenhouse gases and vegetation health from space. It will also help advance the understanding of Earth’s natural exchanges of carbon between the land, atmosphere and ocean.

Led by Berrien Moore of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, the primary goals of the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB) are to monitor plant health and vegetation stress throughout the Americas and to probe the natural sources, sinks and exchange processes that control carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane in the atmosphere, in unprecedented detail.

A commercial communications satellite will act as base for the launch of the investigator-led mission and will make observations over the Americas from an orbit of approximately 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above the equator.

The mission stood out among the 15 proposals submitted to the agency's second Earth Venture - Mission announcement of opportunity for small orbital investigations of the Earth system.

"The GeoCARB mission breaks new ground for NASA's Earth science and applications programs," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "GeoCARB will provide important new measurements related to Earth’s global natural carbon cycle, and will allow monitoring of vegetation health throughout North, Central and South America," NASA reported.

GeoCARB will measure daily the total concentration of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere with a horizontal ground resolution of 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 kilometers). GeoCARB also will measure solar-induced fluorescence, a signal related directly to changes in vegetation photosynthesis and plant stress.

NASA has calculated the mission's total funding over the next five years as $166 million, which includes initial development, launch of the mission as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite, and data analysis.

As per the American space agency, the University of Oklahoma-led GeoCARB team will build an advanced payload that will be launched on a commercial communications satellite, employing otherwise unused launch and spacecraft capacity to advance science and provide societal benefit. By demonstrating GeoCARB can be flown as a hosted payload on a commercial satellite, the mission will strengthen NASA’s partnerships with the commercial satellite industry and provide a model that can be adopted by NASA’s international partners to expand these observations to other parts of the world.

Mission partners include the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California; SES Government Solutions Company in Reston, Virginia; the Colorado State University in Fort Collins; and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

GeoCARB is the second space-based investigation in the Earth Venture - Mission series of rapidly developed, cost-constrained projects for NASA's Earth Science Division. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), selected in 2012, is the first mission in the series and is scheduled to launch from Florida on Monday, December 12.

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