NASA launches mission to monitor Earth's breathing

NASA launches mission to monitor Earth's breathing

Summary: NASA's spacecraft will be monitoring carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere from space.

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Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA has launched a mission dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), launched on Wednesday at 2:56 a.m. local time, started its journey from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

Roughly 90 minutes after launch, the observatory separated from the rocked into an initial 429 mile (690 km) orbit. The spacecraft then underwent activation checks and established communication lines with NASA's team on the ground. So far, so good, and the observatory is expected to reach its final orbit as planned without any hitches. The original OCO, launched in 2009, didn't make it past launch. 

The observatory will be monitoring carbon dioxide levels in our world's atmosphere, and is designed to pinpoint areas where gas is both being emitted and absorbed. If carbon dioxide levels can be monitored and changes logged, this may help the agency predict how our climate will change in the future, as well as improve our understanding of global warming.

The observatory will measure the atmosphere above Earth's land and waters, and is expected to collect over 100,000 individual measurements of CO2 every day. This data will then be used by scientists to generate maps of carbon dioxide emission. In addition, OCO-2 will measure solar-induced fluorescence, an indicator of plant growth. This, in turn, will allow scientists to monitor how much CO2 is being absorbed by Earth's plant life.

It is hoped that OCO-2 will remain in orbit for a minimum of two years on the $468m mission.

Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington commented:

"This challenging mission is both timely and important. OCO-2 will produce exquisitely precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations near Earth's surface, laying the foundation for informed policy decisions on how to adapt to and reduce future climate change."

OCO-2 will begin monitoring CO2 levels in approximately 45 days, after the observatory reaches its final orbit.

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14 comments
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  • CO2, breathing

    Now what about methane?
    dilettante
    • Methane? That's farting ...

      This will require a whole new NASA mission.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • This environmentalist sponsored nonsense, needs to come to an end

    My question is, do conservatives not see the sophisticated, far reaching, veiled power play by environmentalists? These guys own the Obama administration, and have turned a large section of the scientific community, into their propaganda mouth piece, with the community's biased, phony science. It is not a coincidence that the need to respond to "Climate Change", is consistent with environmentalists' agenda to halt human technological progress.

    "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." Conservatives need to wake up and wield a war against this nonsense, for the sake of everyone's freedom. Conservatives also need to realize that they and the country are being pummeled left and right, by liberal dogma, as liberals continue to make a concerted effort to turn the country to their misguided direction, by taking over the media and the higher education system. Conservatives need to counter the media and the entertainment industry, with one of their own.
    P. Douglas
    • "Conservatives"

      U.S. President Richard M. Nixon signed more environmental legislation into law than any other sitting President:

      http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/politics/photos/six-good-things-richard-nixon-did-for-the-environment

      o National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
      o Created the EPA in 1970
      o Clean Air Act Extension of 1970
      o Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972
      o Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974
      o Endangered Species Act of 1973
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • The EPA needs reforms

        The EPA has its place. There however needs to be checks and balances in the way the EPA carries out its responsibilities. Every year, the EPA should provide Congress its program, and if a specific project is not okayed by Congress, it cannot be implemented. Right now the EPA (created I know by a Republican) has too much unchecked power, and needs to be reined in.
        P. Douglas
        • The U.S. EPA falls under the Executive Branch

          As does the OMB (Office of Management and Budget). The U.S. Congress has no role as you describe.

          If the U.S. Congress is to get involved, it should be through amendments to existing environmental statutes (some of which I have listed above). They can also use hearings to publicize environmental-related issues deemed to be important.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • A law needs to be passed to exert decisive control over the EPA

            I believe as soon as they are able, the Congress should work with a reasonable President, to pass a law requiring the EPA to operate the way, or similar to the way I suggested. Right now, environmentalists, through the agency of the President and the EPA, are wielding unreasonable power against the power and other industries. This needs to be corrected ASAP.
            P. Douglas
    • Global Warming "Science" is based on CO2 in Atmosphere

      Yet we obviously don't know how much is there or we wouldn't have to send another multi million dollar satellite into orbit. Oh well it is easy enough to tweak the algorithm and the data the "scientists" are using to prove GW exists.
      Old EE
      • Funny...

        We sent a multi-million dollar satellite into orbit to study the earth's gravitational field. Are you suggesting we were unsure gravity was real up to that point?

        There is no real doubt among the vast bulk of scientists on the planet that human initiated climate change is a real and dangerous thing. Unfortunately, climate change deniers don't use science at all. Instead they rely on talking points presented from a handful of wackos and bought and paid for industry lobbyists.
        :x
        • Give me money, and I'll prove what you want me to prove

          If Republicans flipped around the direction of Climate Change research, and provided funding to prove that it was NOT caused by man made CO2 emissions, I can all but guarantee you that, there would be a new consensus among scientists, that the current Climate Change is completely natural.
          P. Douglas
          • BS

            The research demonstrating man-made climate change is worldwide - as in far beyond the U.S. ability to control, manufacture or (thankfully) censor.

            Thinking it is entirely manufactured by liberal funding controlled by the U.S. congresss is amusingly delusional.
            :x
          • It is politics which wags climate science

            If Republicans do as I suggested above, along with cut off funds to the IPCC, at the very least, there would be a splintering of opinions by scientists, and a full reversal would be possible, if the US government pressured other governments to reverse course.
            P. Douglas
    • I don't even know what to say to this

      the Earth has (and is known to have) yearly cycles for CO2 and other things (such as Schumann resonances) that are akin to respiration. This satellite aims to measure that.

      Leave your political junk out of it - this is hard science.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • Global warming bickering aside

    Global warming bickering aside, this has potential to greatly improve our understanding of how life operates on the planet. It's far better money spent on a real science than handing out money to people getting rich Musking the rules.
    Buster Friendly