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Communications Specialist

Laura Faye Tenenbaum is a science communicator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and teaches oceanography at Glendale Community College.

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Space on the cheap
New climate mission preparing for launch
August 26, 2013
posted by Amber Jenkins
10:07 PDT
Space on the cheap

False-color image of sea wind speed as measured by NASA’s QuikScat satellite in 1999. Orange represents the fastest wind speeds and blue the slowest. White streamlines indicate the wind direction. Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Built with spare change, spare parts and without a moment to spare, RapidScat isn’t your average NASA climate mission.

It's a new instrument from NASA that will measure ocean winds from the vantage point of the International Space Station. Launching into Earth orbit in spring 2014, RapidScat will hitch a ride on the back of a SpaceX rocket, and will continue NASA's legacy of monitoring ocean winds, weather systems, hurricanes, and climate patterns as they evolve.

The story behind the mission is covered in our new feature here. When a previous wind monitoring instrument came to an end in 2009, scientists were tasked with cobbling together a quick replacement. RapidScat, with a price tag of "just" $26 million (a bargain relative to the usual $200 million or so), fits that bill. It also falls in line with NASA's push to come up with cheaper Earth observing missions (be they ones that operate from aircraft or from space) and to harness the power and agility of rocket companies such as SpaceX. Read more over on our main site. 

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