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Earth Science Missions


  • CLOUD-AEROSOL TRANSPORT SYSTEM

    The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) investigation uses a light detection and ranging system to measure the location, composition and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in the atmosphere. CATS is mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module's Exposed Facility on the International Space Station.

    › 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.

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  • ISS-RAPIDSCAT

    Delivered to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spacecraft, ISS-RapidScat will extend the data record of ocean winds around the globe. These data are a key factor in climate research, weather and marine forecasting and tracking of storms and hurricanes.

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  • 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.

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  • STRATOSPHERIC AEROSOL AND GAS EXPERIMENT (SAGE III)

    Launching in 2015, the SAGE III instrument will be mounted on the International Space Station, where it will measure ozone, aerosols, water vapor and other gases in Earth's atmosphere. Ozone is a gas found in the upper atmosphere that protects life on Earth from most of the Sun's ultraviolet light. Over 25 years ago, scientists realized there was a problem with Earth's thin, protective coat of ozone … it was thinning. The SAGE family of instruments was pivotal in making accurate measurements of the amount of ozone loss in Earth's atmosphere. SAGE has also played a key role in measuring the onset of ozone recovery that resulted from the world's leaders adopting the Montreal Protocol, an international policy that was passed in 1987 to regulate chlorine-containing compounds and protect the ozone layer. SAGE III is the latest incarnation of this series of missions.

    › 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.

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  • 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.

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  • CLARREO

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

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  • DESDynI

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

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  • GACM

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

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  • GEO-CAPE

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

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  • GRACE-II

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

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  • HyspIRI

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

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  • LIST

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

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  • PATH

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

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  • SCLP

    Will measure snow accumulation for fresh water availability.

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  • SWOT

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

    › Mission page