It’s Earth Day, and what better way to celebrate than to show you a glimpse of our various efforts to protect and understand our home planet.
We’re able to use the vantage point of space to improve our understanding of the most complex planet we’ve seen yet…EARTH! Our Earth-observing satellites, airborne research and field campaigns are designed to observe our planet’s dynamic systems – oceans, ice sheets, forests and atmosphere – and improve our ability to understand how our planet is changing.
Here are a few of our Earth campaigns that you should know about:
KORUS-AQ (Korea U.S. - Air Quality)
Our KORUS-AQ airborne science experiment taking to the field in South Korea is part of a long-term, international project to take air quality observations from space to the next level and better inform decisions on how to protect the air we breathe. Field missions like KORUS-AQ provide opportunities to test and improve the instruments using simulators that measure above and below aircraft, while helping to infer what people breathe at the surface.
This campaign will assess air quality across urban, rural and coastal South Korea using observations from aircraft, ground sites, ships and satellites to test air quality models and remote sensing methods.
NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study)
Our NAAMES study takes to the sea and air in order to study how the world’s largest plankton bloom gives rise to small organic particles that influence clouds and climate. This study will collect data during ship and aircraft measurement campaigns and combine the data with continuous satellite and ocean sensor readings.
Operation IceBridge is our survey of polar ice, and is kicking off its eighth spring Arctic campaign. This mission has gathered large volumes of data on changes in the elevation of the ice sheet and its internal structure. It’s readings of the thickness of sea ice and its snow cover have helped scientists improve forecasts for the summer melt season and have enhanced the understanding of variations in ice thickness distribution from year to year.
GPM (Global Precipitation Measurement)
GPM is an international satellite mission to provide next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. We launched this mission with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2014. GPM contributes to advancing our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles, improves forecasting of extreme events and extends current capabilities of using satellite precipitation information to directly benefit society.
Find information about all of our Earth-studying missions HERE.
Curiosity Rover: Looking Back on the Two Years of Wear and Tear Inflicted By Mars
It’s insanely hard to believe that Curiosity has been traversing Mars for a full two years now, but, as these images show, time has certainly taken a toll on it. See before and after images of the damage: http://bit.ly/1pP0GpQ
The work we do, and will continue in 2016, helps the United States maintain its world leadership in space exploration and scientific discovery. Here’s an overview of what we have planned for the coming year:
We’re developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s. Mars is a rich destination for scientific discovery and robotic and human exploration as we expand our presence into the solar system. Its formation and evolution are comparable to Earth, helping us learn more about our own planet’s history and future.
The International Space Station is a unique place – a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. In 2016, we will continue our groundbreaking research on the orbiting laboratory.
Our Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery on the orbiting laboratory.
We use the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. In 2016, we will continue to monitor Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns.
Sustained investments in NASA technology advances our space exploration, science and aeronautics capabilities. Our technology development also supports the nation’s innovation economy by creating solutions that generate tangible benefits for life on earth. In 2016, we will continue to invest in the future of innovation.
Thanks to our advancements in aeronautics, today’s aviation industry is better equipped than ever to safely and efficiently transport all those passengers to their destinations. In fact, every U.S. aircraft flying today and every U.S. air traffic control tower uses NASA-developed technology in some way. In 2016, we will continue making these breakthroughs in aeronautics.
This year we will continue exploring our solar system and beyond to unravel the mysteries of our universe. We are looking to answer key questions about our home planet, neighboring planets in our solar system and more!
The colorful aurora australis (southern lights) glowing in this image were not captured at an ordinary place. It’s cold, dark and isolated with very little oxygen to breathe in the air, but the unique location makes Concordia station in Antarctica an attractive place for scientists to conduct research. For nine months, no aircraft or land vehicles can reach the station, temperatures drop to –80°C and the Sun does not rise above the horizon for 100 days.
Living and working in these conditions is similar in many ways to living on another planet and ESA (European Space Agency) sponsors a medical doctor to run research for future space missions. Many experiments will be run, including
how these conditions influence blood pressure, connections in the brain and the sensitivity of eyes. There’s also a team looking for bacteria, fungi and viral colonies that could have adapted to the cold: a lot can be learned from organisms that can survive in extreme conditions and mission designers consider using them for purposes in future space travel.
Read about the crew’s life at the end of the world on the Concordia blog. Copyright: ESA/IPEV/PNRA–B. Healey
The Most Incredible Image of Neptune You’ll Ever See:
Learn how the painstakingly precise details put into making this composite accurate make this the most incredible image you’ll ever see of the outermost ice-giant of our solar system; Neptune: http://goo.gl/H6cJuy
Don’t send people out on short-term missions trips just so they can learn to appreciate what they have…only in America would we think it’s a good idea to spend thousands of dollars just to go and see what poverty looks like.
This view with the Sun behind Pluto was captured by New Horizons
last July. The spacecraft was at a range of over 21,000 kilometers, about 19 minutes after its closest approach. The image reveals Pluto's complex layers of hazy atmosphere. The crescent twilight landscape near the top of the frame includes southern areas of nitrogen ice plains and rugged mountains of water-ice.
Breaking News: NASA Just Announced the Discovery of a ‘Second Earth’
NASA just discovered the first truly Earth-like planet! Meet Kepler 452b…
Today (July 23, 2015), NASA announced the discovery of the first truly Earth-like planet. This find comes thanks to thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in March of 2009 and has been planet hunting for the last 5 years. “It is the first terrestrial planet in the habitable zone around a star very similar to the Sun,” says Douglas Caldwell, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.
Kepler 452 is a sun-like star that wanders through the cosmos 1,400 light-years from Earth. It has the same surface temperature as our sun and nearly the exact same energy output. Ultimately, both the sun and Kepler 452 are G type yellow dwarfs. This means that Kepler 452’s habitability zone (the area surrounding a star in which liquid water could theoretically exist) is nearly identical to the sun’s.
And, here’s the interesting bit, in this zone, there is a planet that orbits in a path that is nearly identical to Earth's—it falls in almost the exact same place as Earth does in our own solar system.