NASA Greenlights Four New Earth Science Missions Targeting Climate Insights

nasa view from satalite

All Eyes on Earth: NASA awards four teams funds to pursue one-year studies on greenhouse gases, ozone layer, ocean currents, and glacier dynamics. (Photo by NASA on Unsplash)

by | May 20, 2024

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NASA has selected four innovative proposals for concept studies aimed at advancing our understanding of critical Earth science areas, including greenhouse gases, the ozone layer, ocean surface currents, and ice and glacier dynamics.

These initiatives are part of NASA’s new Earth System Explorers Program, which prioritizes principal investigator-led space science missions, enabling high-quality Earth system science investigations focusing on previously identified key targets with an emphasis on greenhouse gases.

Nicky Fox, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, emphasized the importance of these studies. “The proposals represent another example of NASA’s holistic approach to studying our home planet,” Fox stated. “As we continue to confront our changing climate, and its impacts on humans and our environment, the need for data and scientific research could not be greater. These proposals will help us better prepare for the challenges we face today, and tomorrow.”

Each of the four proposals will receive $5 million for a one-year mission concept study, marking the first phase of a two-step selection process. Following the study period, NASA will select two proposals for further development, aiming for launch readiness by 2030 and 2032. The mission cost cap is set at $310 million each, excluding the launch vehicle and access to space, which NASA will provide.

NASA’s extensive history in Earth observation, spanning over six decades, has significantly shaped our understanding of the planet. Currently, more than two dozen NASA satellites and instruments monitor Earth’s oceans, land, ice, and atmosphere. The new missions will enhance this comprehensive Earth observatory by providing complementary data.

Selected Proposals for Concept Studies

Stratosphere Troposphere Response using Infrared Vertically-Resolved Light Explorer (STRIVE)
Led by Lyatt Jaegle at the University of Washington, this mission will offer daily, high-resolution measurements of temperature, atmospheric elements, and aerosols from the upper troposphere to the mesosphere. It aims to provide detailed vertical profiles of ozone and trace gases, critical for monitoring the ozone layer’s recovery.

Ocean Dynamics and Surface Exchange with the Atmosphere (ODYSEA)
Under the leadership of Sarah Gille at the University of California, San Diego, ODYSEA will measure ocean surface currents and winds simultaneously, enhancing our understanding of air-sea interactions and their impact on weather, climate, and marine ecosystems. The mission targets quick data turnaround, updating ocean wind data within three hours and ocean current data within six hours.

Earth Dynamics Geodetic Explorer (EDGE)
Helen Amanda Fricker at the University of California, San Diego, leads this mission, which will observe terrestrial ecosystems and the topography of glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice. EDGE aims to continue measurements currently provided by ICESat-2 and GEDI, monitoring changes due to climate and human activities.

Carbon Investigation (Carbon-I)
Christian Frankenberg at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena heads this mission, focused on multi-species measurements of critical greenhouse gases and ethane. Carbon-I seeks to deliver high spatial resolution and global coverage, contributing to our understanding of the carbon cycle and the global methane budget.

These missions promise to provide valuable insights and data crucial for addressing the ongoing and future impacts of climate change.

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