New projects to help NASA improve knowledge of our changing climate

NASA has selected four projects for concept studies that will help better understand key areas of focus in Earth science for the benefit of everyone, including greenhouse gases, the ozone layer, ocean surface currents, and changes in ice and glaciers around the world.

The four probes are part of the agency’s new Earth System Explorers program — which conducts space science missions led by a principal investigator nominated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 2017 Decennial Survey Earth science and applications from space. The program is designed to focus high-quality geosystem science studies on key targets previously identified. For these missions, NASA prioritizes greenhouse gases as one of its target observations.

„These proposals are another example of NASA’s holistic approach to exploring our own planet,” said Nikki Fox, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. „As we continue to face 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.”

As the first step in a two-step selection process, each of these programs will receive $5 million to conduct a one-year mission study. After the study period, NASA will choose two programs to move forward for launch in 2030 and 2032. Excluding rockets and access to space, the total mission cost for each selected probe is $310 million. NASA

Much of what we know about our changing planet is rooted in more than 60 years of NASA Earth observations. NASA currently has more than two dozen Earth-observing satellites and instruments in orbit. Missions ultimately selected from this pool of projects will make their unique contributions to this large Earth observatory, which will work together to provide complementary layers of information about Earth’s oceans, land, ice, and atmosphere.

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Four propositions selected for conceptual studies:

  • Stratosphere Troposphere Response Using the Infrared Vertically Resolved Light Explorer (STRIVE)
    This mission will provide daily, global, high-resolution measurements of temperature, various atmospheric components, and aerosol properties from the upper troposphere to the mesosphere – at a higher spatial density than previous missions. It will measure vertical profiles of ozone and detect gases needed to monitor and understand ozone layer recovery — another identified NASA Earth science goal. The project is led by Liad Jagle at the University of Washington in Seattle.
  • Ocean Dynamics and Surface Exchange with the Atmosphere (ODYSEA)
    The satellite will simultaneously measure ocean surface currents and winds, improving our understanding of air-sea interactions and surface current processes that affect weather, climate, marine ecosystems, and human well-being. It aims to provide updated ocean wind data within three hours and ocean current data within six hours. Sarah Gilley at the University of California, San Diego is leading the proposal.
  • Earth Dynamics Geodetic Explorer (EDGE)
    This mission will observe the three-dimensional structure of terrestrial ecosystems and the surface topography of glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice as they respond to climate and human activity. The mission will provide a continuation of such measurements currently being taken from space by ICESat-2 and GEDI (Global Environmental Dynamics Survey). Helen Amanda Fricker at the University of California, San Diego is leading the proposal.
  • Carbon Investigation (Carbon-I)
    This investigation will enable simultaneous, multi-species measurements of important greenhouse gases and potential measurements of ethane – which will help study processes that drive natural and anthropogenic emissions. This work will provide unprecedented spatial resolution and global coverage, which will help better understand the carbon cycle and the global methane budget. Christian Frankenberg at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena is leading the proposal.
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For more information about the Earth System Explorers program, visit:

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