NASA has announced a new Earth science mission ahead of the possible budget cuts or complete elimination of its Earth science division. The space agency says this is the first geostationary vegetation/atmospheric carbon mission of its kind, and it is aimed at better enabling the US to measure vegetation health and greenhouse gases from space. By doing so, says NASA, researchers will be able to better understand the natural carbon exchanges between the ocean, land, and atmosphere above them.
NASA announced the new mission on Tuesday, saying it will is officially called “GeoCARB” — the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory. The mission, which is being led by the University of Oklahoma in Norman’s Berrien Moore, will monitor the Americas’ vegetation stress and overall plant health. Ultimately, the team will look into the various ‘processes’ involved in controlling atmospheric carbon dioxide/monoxide and methane.
According to Earth Science Division Direct Michael Freilich, “The GeoCARB mission breaks new ground for NASA’s Earth science and applications programs. GeoCARB will provide important new measurements related to Earth’s global natural carbon cycle, and will allow monitoring of vegetation health throughout North, Central and South America.”
The observations will be made from about 22,000 miles above Earth, says NASA. The level of detail in this monitoring is something the space agency calls ‘unprecedented,’ with the atmospheric gas levels being measured for every 5 to 10 kilometers of Earth every day. The agency is planning for this mission to last for the next five years with a total cost of $166 million. However, concerns about the president-elect’s intentions for NASA’s Earth Science Division has raised doubts about the mission’s long-term plans.