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Earth Science Missions


  • GLOBAL PRECIPITATION MEASUREMENT

    Scheduled for launch in 2013, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is one of the next generation of satellite-based Earth science missions that will study global precipitation (rain, snow, ice).

    › Mission page

  • ICESat-II

    The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) is the follow-on to the laser altimeter ICESat mission. It will measure ice sheet height changes and give us insights into how climate change is affecting ice.

    › Mission page

  • OCO-2

    After the launch failure of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) on February 2009, NASA was directed to rebuild the original instrument and fly the follow-on mission as OCO-2. The mission will use spectroscopy to measure the amount of carbon dioxide—one of the most important heat-trapping greenhouse gases—in the Earth’s atmosphere. By looking for the radiation “fingerprint” of carbon dioxide, scientists will use OCO-2 to study the global distribution of carbon dioxide and its growth in our atmosphere. The scheduled launch date for OCO-2 is July 1, 2014.

    › Mission page

  • SMAP

    Soil Moisture Active & Passive (SMAP) will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. These measurements will be used to enhance understanding of processes that link the water, energy and carbon cycles, and to extend the capabilities of weather and climate prediction models. SMAP data will also be used to quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes and to develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capabilities.

    › Mission page
The National Research Council completed its first decadal survey for Earth science in January 2007. The survey identified 15 new space missions for NASA (including one joint mission with NOAA) that could renew U.S. investment in Earth-observing systems and restore its leadership in Earth science and applications. The list below includes some of these missions.

  • ACE

    Using lidar, ACE will create aerosol and cloud profiles for climate and water cycles.

    › Mission page

  • ASCENDS

    Will measure the number density of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the column of air beneath the aircraft. Will also measure ambient air pressure and temperature.

    › Mission page

  • CLARREO

    Will measure solar radiation, spectrally resolved forcing and response of the climate system.

    › Mission page

  • DESDynI

    Will measure surface and ice sheet deformation for understanding natural hazards and climate; vegetation structure for ecosystem health.

    › Mission page

  • GACM

    Will monitor ozone and related gases for intercontinental air quality and stratospheric ozone layer prediction.

    › Mission page

  • GEO-CAPE

    Will monitor atmospheric gas columns for air-quality forecasts and ocean color for coastal ecosystem health and climate emissions.

    › Mission page

  • GRACE-II

    Will measure Earth's gravity field in order to track large-scale water movement.

    › Mission page

  • HyspIRI

    Will monitor land surface composition for agriculture and mineral characterization and vegetation types for ecosystem health.

    › Mission page

  • LIST

    Will measure land surface topography to look for landslide hazards and water runoff.

    › Mission page

  • PATH

    Will perform high frequency, all-weather temperature and humidity soundings for weather forecasting and sea surface temperature.

    › Mission page

  • SCLP

    Will measure snow accumulation for fresh water availability.

    › Mission page

  • SWOT

    Will track ocean, lake, and river water levels for ocean and inland water dynamics.

    › Mission page