Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tweeting from the NASA Earth Science Update

Hi all,

Here are some updates from NASA Earth Sciences, as tweeted earlier today:

NASA spending 1.5 billion on Earth Science in FY08

OSTM and OCO being launched this year

7 Earth Science missions in development

Dr. Alan Stern, Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate

NASA Earth Science: 14 Earth satellites in commission, 8 spacecraft to be launched in the next 5 years

Stern: Earth Science is one of NASA's "best kept secrets"

OSTM: Launch 6/16, GOES-O (weather satellite!) Launch 8/8; OCO Launch 12/15

Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO): First-time measurements of global carbon dioxide sources and sinks

Aquarius (Launch 2010): First time measurements of sea surface salinity from space

The A-Train is comprised of 5 satellites flying in close formation (including Aura!)

Synergy of spacecraft flying in close formation gives us more info than any one satellite flying alone

Six thematic areas of Earth science research: climate variability and change; atmospheric composition; weather; carbon cycle;

(cont): tectonic processes; water and energy cycles

NASA DC8 flying over boreal forest and examining impact of air pollution over arctic air masses - summer '08

NASA Earth science accomplishments 2007:

NASA observations have contributed to climate change projects (i.e.: IPCC Report)

QuickScat measured record decline in arctic sea ice cover

Area of sea ice lost: comparable to area of TX and CA combined

IceSAT: Arctic sea ice is thinning and shriking. Old ice is being replaced by newer, thinner sea ice

Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM): Polar mesospheric clouds are forming more frequently and at lower latitudes than ever before

Polar Mesospheric cloud change is result of CO2 in atmosphere, cooling in upper atmosphere

Satellites characterized aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Satellites imaged before and after changes in live vegetation wrt Katrina

NASA measures So Cal wildfires:

Aqua, EOS-1, and unmanned research aircraft got images of fires, showing smoke locations, fire hotspots, and near real-time data

Stay tuned: Specifics about Earth Science response to decadal survey. Once-per-month updates on NASA Earth Science programs and projects

OCO will help us understand the carbon cycle on scales of about 1,000 km, and understand non-anthropogenic background

Miles Brian (CNN): How does NASA plan to handle data gaps?

Stern: NASA satellites have proven to outlive their expectations by factors of 2 and 3. We have a balancing act btwn covering gaps

(cont): and new measurements

Miles Brian (CNN): Are we here because of a change in political climate?

Griffin: No. We are here because we do research, and we do Earth science research well, and we're proud of it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hello Mercury!!

The MESSENGER spacecraft will make its first flyby of Mercury today at 2:04:39 pm EST!! This image of Mercury was taken yesterday on January 13 when the spacecraft was at a distance of about 760,000 kilometers (470,000 miles) from Mercury. Mercury is about 4880 kilometers (about 3030 miles) in diameter, and the smallest feature visible in this image is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) across.

During the historic encounter today, extensive scientific data will be gathered. The Mercury Dual Imaging System cameras will acquire more than 1,200 images of Mercury, including images of portions of the surface never before viewed by a spacecraft. The Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer will observe Mercury's surface as well as its tenuous atmosphere. The Magnetometer will accurately measure Mercury's magnetic field, and the Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer will characterize Mercury's space environment and interactions with the solar wind. The Mercury Laser Altimeter will sense surface topography along a narrow profile. The Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer and X-Ray Spectrometer will make the first measurements of Mercury’s surface elemental composition.

MESSENGER will begin to transmit the new data to Earth once all of the scientific measurements are completed, about 22 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Mercury. These flyby data will shed light on fundamental scientific questions related to the formation and evolution of the planet Mercury. As scientists analyze the data, the MESSENGER spacecraft will continue on its planned journey, which includes two more encounters of Mercury in October 2008 and September 2009, before entering an orbit around Mercury in March 2011.

Additional information and features from this first flyby will be available online at, so check back frequently. Following the flyby, be sure to check for the latest released images and science results!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mercury Here We Come!!

This Monday, January 14, 2008, the MESSENGER spacecraft will make its first flyby of Mercury! Monday's flyby, which is taking place more than three decades after the last spacecraft visit of Mercury (Mariner 10), will take MESSENGER to about 200 kilometers above Mercury's surface. To learn more about the flyby, click here. The following movie features Sean C. Solomon, Principal Investigator for the MESSENGER mission.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!!

2008 will be a very exciting year for us with the MESSENGER flyby of Mercury in a couple weeks on Jan. 14 and the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on Oct. 31!

To learn more about the Mercury flyby, including how you can celebrate the event with others if you live in the DC/Baltimore area, click

To read the recently released LRO fact sheet, click